With a 10-8 overall record and a 2-3 record in the Big 12 conference, West Virginia basketball has been all over the board this season.
After winning their first two conference games on the road against TCU and Texas Tech, the Mountaineers have now dropped their last three games at home against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State and Texas and on the road against Kansas State.
Despite the inconsistency the team as a whole has shown this year, one player has been playing at a high level on a nightly basis.
That player is junior guard Juwan Staten.
To this point in the season, Staten is No. 4 in the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game.
Teammate Eron Harris has benefited immensely from Staten’s prowess running the West Virginia offense this season. Harris is one spot ahead of his teammate at No. 3 in the Big 12 in scoring, averaging 17.6 points per game.
Through 18 games in the 2012-13 season, West Virginia’s record stood at 9-9. Just looking at overall record, you could come to the conclusion that this year’s Mountaineer team isn’t much better than the one that struggled through a disappointing 2012-13 season.
However, a team should be judged by more than its overall record. Staten, who appeared to be lost on the court at times in 2012-13, has taken a huge step forward this season.
Whether it just took him some time to fully adjust to Bob Huggins’ coaching style, or if something has just clicked for him in the offseason, Staten has evolved into the type of player that can take control of a game – like he did when he scored the final nine points in WVU’s road win over TCU – and simultaneously raise the level of play of all of his teammates.
The headlines in the Big 12 are often grabbed by Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart or Kansas’ freshman phenomenon Andrew Wiggins, and rightfully so.
Smart and Wiggins are extremely talented players on extremely talented teams. However, Staten is just as talented as the two most highly publicized players in the conference.
The only difference between Staten and Wiggins and Smart is the overall success of their teams.
Smart and Wiggins play on two of the most talented teams in the nation. The statistics they put up are eye-popping, but the only reason they get the attention they do is because their teams are able to stay in the national spotlight.
Not long ago, West Virginia was viewed as the type of team that would always be in position to contend for a conference championship and to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
While those days may seem like ancient history now, players like Juwan Staten can help restore West Virginia as a national powerhouse.
On a team that doesn’t have a single senior on its roster, Staten has taken the reigns of West Virginia’s offense and is in the process of bringing it back to the national spotlight.
The true measure of a player can be found by looking at how he performs against the teams that know him best. Conference play provides a completely different level of competition and has been known to make and break players.
Staten’s level of play has only increased since West Virginia began its Big 12 schedule. The versatile guard is shooting 61 percent from the field in conference games and averaging 19.8 points per game.
While West Virginia isn’t likely to be playing in the postseason this year, if Staten continues to progress at this rate, the Mountaineers could be set up for a return to national relevance next season.