By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It was a half hour or so before West Virginia’s final practice before tonight’s exhibition game against Glenville State at the Coliseum and Juwan Staten was sitting in the seats behind the basket at the WVU end of the court filling out a profile form for an upcoming game program.
Even though he’s been at West Virginia for more than a year now, the new point guard who will serve as the nerve center of the Mountaineers isn’t yet very well known, having sat out last season after transferring from Dayton, where he led the Atlantic 10 in assists as a freshman.
Staten is a quiet kid for the most part, a nice kid whose face on the social media is that of a religious kid who wants to do well, not the kind of in-your-face young athlete we see far too much of and not the kind of kid you expect to find in the police report as often as he is on the sports page.
“That comes from my parents. They raised me right,” he said when the subject was brought up. “I know right from wrong. I know I’m representing them and I’m representing something bigger than myself. I don’t want to make them look bad and I don’t want to make myself look bad. I want to go out there and be the best person I can be.”
It is a refreshing approach from a college athlete, many of whom over the years have strayed into anything from drug use to armed robbery. After all, many come from bad areas, often from broken homes, and they are turned loose in a college atmosphere as a pampered, spoiled athlete.
Staten does not seem to qualify there.
“There’s always going to be some distractions, but as long as you know why you are here and what you are supposed to be doing, it’s easier to stay on track,” Staten said.
It was brought up to Bob Huggins, who has been with him now for the year he sat out and this practice session, and Huggins was surprising in his assessment not only of him but the entire group.
“In all honesty, I have very, very few I worry about getting in trouble,” he said. “We have good kids.
“It’s like when we got Jabarie (Hinds) from Mount Vernon. It’s like Bob Simino said, ‘You may have gotten the three best players/people to come out of here — Lowes Moore, Kevin Jones and Jabarie.’
“For us, being bad is being 15 minutes late for study hall. It hasn’t always been that way.”
When you think about it, knowing the history of Bob Huggins’ teams in Cincinnati, where he was often called “Thuggins” in the media because of the way his players played and behaved, it shows just how different things have become here.
Staten is the new breed of Huggins player, much the same as Da’Sean Butler or Kevin Jones was, and he may have as much talent.
He comes in as a redshirt sophomore, with three more years to play at the point with a couple of other sophomores, Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne.
And what does he want to accomplish in those three years?
“I just want to get better. I want to continue to get better every day,” he said. “I want to become a great leader, someone the team can depend on. And I want to win. That’s the biggest thing. I know if we win as a team, everything else will take care of itself.”
It wasn’t easy for him to sit out the season, especially as the Mountaineers struggled to just 19 victories.
“It was kind of hard early because I never had to sit out a long period of time or miss a season. It was hard to practice and then sit there on game days and not be able to go out and help the team,” Staten said.
“But I kind of got used to it. I tried to do things in practice and mention things in the game to help the team.”
He didn’t waste the year.
“I was able to grow. I wasn’t able to play so I had to eat my words a lot. I had a lot of extra workouts and energy so I could work on things I needed to work on.”
Now he feels he’s ready to step in and run the team.
“I know what Coach Huggs likes and what he doesn’t like,” he said. “I just want to be a player that does what he can to help the team.”
And that will be to handle the ball in the open court, run the fast break and set up teammates while giving all he has on the defensive end, which is what Bob Huggins basketball is all about.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.