By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
The West Virginia University basketball program, which has not had much good news over the past couple of years, got the best news it could have gotten as All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten announced Sunday that he will return for his senior season.
Staten had said following WVU’s victory over Kansas in the final regular season game of the year that he planned to explore his prospects of leaving early for the NBA.
His return became even more of an issue a few days after the Mountaineers were eliminated from the NIT with a first-round loss to Georgetown when his backcourt running mate Eron Harris, the team’s second-leading scorer and the Big 12’s third-leading scorer with a 17-point-a-game average announced that he had decided to transfer from WVU.
Had Staten followed WVU would have lost 35 points a game out of their backcourt along with one of the nation’s top playmakers and a team leader in Staten, but Staten decided that he wanted to continue his college career.
“After talking to my parents and Coach Huggins, I have decided to return to West Virginia University for my senior season,” Staten said in a release from the school. “It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA and a dream of mine to hear my name called as a lottery pick in the NBA draft. I believe everything happens for a reason and I have a good feeling about playing my senior season at WVU.”
There were a lot of questions as to whether Staten, despite his outstanding season, would have been a first-round selection in the NBA.
While a slick passer and often spectacular while driving to the hoop, Staten’s shooting needs work, especially from beyond the 3-point line. This past season he made just six 3-point shots and attempted only 15.
He also needs to get stronger and while he is extremely quick, almost everyone in the NBA possesses that skill.
Huggins has little doubt that Staten will do all he can to improve in the areas in which he needs improvement to move on to the next level.
“Juwan’s improvement from his sophomore season to his junior season this year was unbelievable,” Huggins said, noting that he became the first player in school history to score more than 500 points, dish out more than 150 assists and grab more than 150 rebounds in a season.
Staten finished this season averaging 18.1 points a game while dishing out 196 assists and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per contest.
“His work ethic is second to none, and I know Juwan will put in the time in the practice facility in the offseason to improve his game even more,” Huggins said.
The NBA is not the only goal Staten has as he returns.
He is also aiming toward another goal, one that perhaps has peaked during this current NCAA Tournament.
Staten wants to get to the tournament during his collegiate career, hoping he did not miss his chance this year.
Staten originally played at Dayton before transferring to WVU and sitting out last year. This would have been his senior season with the Flyers and, who knows, had he stayed he might have engineered their Cinderella run even further, into the Final Four.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Huggins and the basketball staff. I have never been to the NCAA tournament and I want to get Coach Huggins and my teammates back to the NCAA tournament,” Staten said.
He also expressed how strongly he feels about West Virginia and its fans.
“Since I have been at West Virginia, I have fallen in love with the fans and the entire state of West Virginia. I love the state and this university and I certainly want to give back to the fans for my fifth season. I am excited about next year’s team, and we are going to prepare as hard as we can to get back to the NCAA tournament,” he said.
“We are thrilled and excited to have Juwan return for his senior season,” Huggins said. “We are looking forward to coaching and helping Juwan achieve every goal that he has set for himself and for the team.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.