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Staten's Guidance Big Part of Mountaineer Success

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MORGANTOWN -

It was a familiar scene, as though the play that garnered such interest just eight days before had resurfaced in a different arena, in a different state and against a different opponent.

But there was Gary Browne, picking off a pass and looking up the court to find Juwan Staten streaking past the closest defender. No. 14 heaved the ball ahead and No. 3 caught up to it just in time to size up the basket and reach for it.

The junior guard had his first dunk of the season against William and Mary to round out non-conference play and here he was doing it again. This time, Texas Tech was the opponent, and this time, every single point counted in a way they may not have while blowing out the Tribe.

Staten did not face the plethora of questions about what it meant or felt like to get that dunk, though. Perhaps it's commonplace for the point guard now, and why not? His repertoire has been so greatly updated from what he displayed in his first season on the court with West Virginia that it would make sense to see his 6-foot-1 frame leaping to the rim more often.

What else has become commonplace is the way he can take control of a game.

It began in the first half, with the dunk and the layups and the trips to the free throw line, Staten helped put his team ahead by as many as nine with his 11 points.

It continued in the second half, when Staten added 14 points.

"We've got Mr. Staten, he really did a good job controlling the game," said Terry Henderson, motioning to Staten during the post game interviews. "He helped a lot. I think he's the one that got us together and was like, ‘We've got to win this game.' He got it through everybody's head."

He understands that his teammates look to him in key situations. It's the reason he has come to the point where he doesn't hesitate to get in their faces if they do wrong. He doesn't give any sign of a pause before imploring a freshman to do better or instructing a more veteran player on where he should have been on the previous play.

It has become his job for this inexperienced team.

"I feel like I'm a veteran on this team. We have a lot of new players. We don't have any seniors, so it's going to take someone to take the lead," said Staten. "The coaches have a lot of respect for me, my teammates have a lot of respect for me and they put a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I embrace it and I just go out there and try to do anything I can to help the team win."

His lone gaffe, and it was a big one at the time, was a late technical foul that directly led to the Red Raiders tying the game and ultimately taking the lead. Staten claimed he didn't say anything but rather looked at a Texas Tech player and Huggins said the official said he pointed at the beaten defender after he made his layup.

It was a mistake that is uncharacteristic of the player who has led this team so far this season, but perhaps also an opportunity for a lesson learned the hard way.

Staten has learned plenty of lessons coming into his third year with the Mountaineers.

"It's night and day, but he's worked at it. He's put a lot of time in the gym, he's put a lot of time in film study," said Huggins. "It's kind of like a quarterback in that a point guard really needs to know who's coming open first and then who's coming open second."

That understanding of the offense has Staten averaging more than six assists per game while turning the ball over fewer than two times each outing. His 16.1 points per game are sixth best in the conference and the assists are good for second-most in the Big 12.

"He's pretty much been doing it all year," said Huggins. "He's playing with a lot of confidence and his understanding of what I want him to do is very, very good. He's playing at a high level right now." 

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