Attention! There has been a Juwan Staten sighting! You can call off those search parties.
The Mountaineers’ star senior point guard finally found the swagger that had been eluding him in 2015 and got back to playing his brand of basketball in his team’s upset of the Big 12 leading Kansas Jayhawks.
Over the last month, the man inhabiting the body of last season’s conference scoring champ was certainly unrecognizable to anyone that had seen Staten in gold and blue. He was timid, unwilling to attack the basket the way fans had grown so accustomed to seeing. He was deferring, not just in the way that a good point guard should, but literally passing up opportunities to take over games that were begging for his ability to put ball in net.
But I hear what you’re thinking. Of course his scoring numbers are down from last year, Huggins has this team playing a completely different style which stresses turnovers and getting out in transition. Couple that with a much better supporting cast and it’s obvious that Staten can’t be the focal point of the offense the way he once was. But shouldn’t he be? I would argue that the team’s 41 percent on field goals, good for 282nd in the nation, should be enough of a reason to give Juwan more flexibility to create for himself in half court sets. Also, I would argue that this year’s style of play isn’t really an excuse as to why Staten is taking fewer shots. With NCAA leading numbers in steals and offensive rebounds, there are certainly more shots to go around. Is anyone happy seeing those shots wasted on Gary Browne?
While it’s possible that I’m being a bit harsh, it’s only to illustrate a very important point. West Virginia needs its best player to be a high volume shooter. If you still don’t believe me, take into account that in the 11 games Staten has taken 12 or more shots, the Mounties have posted a 9-2 record. In their other four losses, which came by an average of 20.5 points, Staten was a nonfactor, twice tallying just 7 shot attempts. Last season’s attack-mode Staten shot 12 or more times in 19 contests, 14 of which were in league play. Compare that to just three times in his senior season. This lack of aggressiveness isn’t just evident in shots, Staten’s free throw attempts are also down from a season ago. In those same four 20 point losses, Staten only got to the line an average of 3.5 times per game.
That’s a lot of numbers, but they should all be telling you one thing: the less assertive Staten that had been taking the floor over the last month is not what this team needs. Now more than ever the Mountaineers need their leader to take charge of the offense and shoulder the scoring load. It’s no secret that when WVU wins games, they’re going to win ugly. That’s a formula that can certainly work in March, but without its offensively assertive star, the Mountaineers look more and more poised for a early round exit in the NCAA tournament.