Despite blowing a 17-point lead to Virginia Tech Tuesday and a 1-1 start to the season, fans should have reason to believe in the West Virginia men’s basketball team.
Granted the season is only two games in, but I’ve seen a completely different squad this season compared to the one in 2012. For example, the guard play from West Virginia has been very impressive.
Last season, the Mountaineers lacked consistent play from point guard Jabarie Hinds, who struggled to find his jump shot for the majority of the year. Hinds averaged 7.4 points per contest but just 1.6 assists on 35 percent shooting.
With Hinds no longer part of the program, Staten, who split time with Hinds, is in full control of the offense this season. Now in his second season with the Mountaineers, Staten scored a career-high 22 points, passed for six assists and grabbed five rebounds in his season debut Friday. He shot seven for 10 from the floor while playing in all 40 minutes of action.
It’s clear head coach Bob Huggins and staff like the direction the team is going with Staten at the helm.
“The best leaders I’ve ever had are guys that lead by example. But they’re also the guys who know what we want,” Huggins said. “It’s hard to lead people in a direction when you don’t know what you’re doing, and (Staten) has done a great job. He’s done a great job of digesting what we want, (and) he’s done a great job of leading by example. He’s in the gym early and stays late.”
Despite a shaky shooting performance in Tuesday’s loss, Staten nearly recorded a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists.
“My goal for every game is to just play my game,” Staten said. “Take the shots when they’re open, make the passes when they’re open and just try to do anything and everything I can to help the team win.”
Sophomore guard Eron Harris has also been off to a quick start. Named Honorable Mention All-Big 12 heading into the year, Harris has made his impact known from 3-point range.
Like Staten, expect to see Harris play nearly every minute of every game this year.
Harris scored 16 points against Virginia Tech Tuesday, including seven points from the free-throw line. The Mountaineers are shooting nearly 42 percent from 3-point range at No. 4 in the Big 12 Conference.
“Staten has put in a lot of time, and I think the same for Eron Harris,” Huggins said. “Those (two) guys have really done a good job.
Despite losing several key players to graduation or transfer, the Mountaineers have no seniors on roster. A potential run in the NCAA Tournament could happen if the team builds on its young talent.