The Times West Virginian

November 22, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Staten does it all to lead Mountaineers

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — This is beginning to become a novel with each West Virginia University game a new chapter.

One night Juwan Staten does this; the next night he does that.

Then along came Thursday night.

He did everything but sell tickets, and maybe that’s why so few people showed up.

Only 4,814 were in the Coliseum, but that’s yet another chapter. Suffice to say that coach Bob Huggins puts it this way … “We have this notion we’re great fans, but great fans come all the time. Fans come to see their team.”

The opposition was Georgia Southern, which wasn’t much opposition at all in a game that would wind up 101-68, but this night was all about Staten.

The numbers tell part of the story.

He scored 20 points, had nine assists against only one turnover, five rebounds and three steals.

But that doesn’t tell you about the two dunks that came from the littlest man on the team, who leads them in dunks for the season. It doesn’t tell about the fast-break behind-the-back pass that led to a Terry Henderson dunk.

And it doesn’t tell you about the smile.

Yes, the smile.

This made an Eat ’n Park Happy Face cookie look like it was bawling, for it came after the 3-point shot he made.

Now we don’t want to say it had been a long time, but there are any of a number of ways you can look at when Juwan Staten last made a 3.

He was playing at Dayton then. How long ago was that? Well, he played here last year and sat out the year before after transferring.

The date was Feb. 16, 2011.

That was 1,009 days earlier.

“Like I’ve been saying, I’ve been practicing it,” he said.

And no, he said, “the smile wasn’t a sign of relief.”

In fact, he would say, “the 3-pointer meant more to everybody else than me.”

Oh, he’d heard about how he never made a 3, about how he lacked so much confidence in his ability that a year ago he attempted only 9, which is like taking none when you are a point guard who plays and plays and plays.

The teasing came from teammates, but more he heard it from the newspaper guys who get into things like that, sort of like with the crowd that was the smallest at the Coliseum since WVU beat New Hampshire on Dec. 21, 2004, before 4,323.

The 3-point shot was the one thing lacking from Staten’s resume, sort of like the way Ernie Banks never played in a World Series or Stan Musial never won a home run championship.

“He’s 10 times more confident,” Eron Harris explained, speaking of Staten.

But this game was so much more than just erasing that one glitch from his career.

In fact, you ask him what the best thing about the night was for him, and he slides past the 3, the two dunks, the behind-the-back pass which really was a thing of beauty for he was able to lay it off to Henderson in stride .

“It was just our team running,” he said. “We have gotten a running mentality.”

And that is important for this is a team that has athleticism and speed, a team whose strength is in using his and Eron Harris’ and Henderson’s and Remi Dibo’s ability to push the tempo, playing almost the kind of ball that Dana Holgorsen would love to play but didn’t have the right people to use this year.

Getting the ball from one end of the floor to the other, spreading the floor and, more important, letting fly when they get to the other end is what distinguishes this group.

It almost doesn’t matter now who shoots. Five different players made 3s, led by Gary Browne, who was worse at shooting them a year ago than anyone except for Staten.

Incredibly, this team that barely edged past 40 percent shooting a year ago is at 51 percent this year and is shooting 43.5 percent from 3.

And this novel novel that is being written is only four games old, three of them victories.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.