Cousy Award Finalist, Staten Focused on Team - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Cousy Award Finalist, Staten Focused on Team

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MORGANTOWN -

Juwan Staten understands that the best way for him to gain individual recognition is to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Not that he's thinking about individual honors.

Unless you ask him about them, that is.

The junior point guard was recently named to a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, presented annually to the nation's best point guard. Twenty-four players make up the list of finalists, narrowed down from an original compilation of the 80 best at the position.

Only Staten did not make that initial watch list. He played himself from someone who wasn't even mentioned in the top 80 before the season to a real contender among the top floor generals in college basketball.

"It means a lot to me," said Staten. "I just thank God for the opportunity. I feel like I'm blessed to be in this position, especially after not being on the preseason watch list. I'm just going to continue playing my game. I appreciate people for voting for me and even nominating me."

Fan voting began earlier in the month and extends through March 10. As is typical of an online vote in which West Virginia University fans have a rooting interest, the Mountaineer is out in front.

With two weeks remaining before the 24 finalists are narrowed down to just five, Staten owns 24 percent of the fan vote. The closest contender is Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet with 20 percent.

The final five players will be presented to Mr. Cousy himself and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection committee, which will announce the winner during the NCAA Final Four weekend. 

To have gone from being off of the list in the preseason to the top of the fan voting today is indicative of the work Staten has put in and his ability to put his team on his back when he's asked to.

"He's definitely gotten better and better," said Staten's head coach, Bob Huggins. "He's put time in. I mean, he studies, he knows what areas we can attack because he does study the film. He's shooting the ball better. He's just put an enormous amount of time in."

Staten has certainly figured out how to attack in his junior season. A rules emphasis at the start of the season made it easier for players to penetrate through the lane and at worst get a trip to the free throw line and Staten has taken advantage.

He averages 18 points per game – third best in the Big 12 behind Iowa State's Melvin Ejim and fellow WVU guard Eron Harris – while leading the league in assists with six each time out on the court.

"Some of it is me watching a lot of film and ways I can get better, but a lot of it is due to these rules," said Staten. "They're definitely keeping a lot of hand touching to a minimum and that works in my favor because I feel like I can get around just about anybody that's guarding me. If they refs are going to be tight and calling those fouls, then that benefits me a lot."

Staten is also getting the job done defensively as he ranks in the Big 12's top five for steals per outing and he has been outstanding when it comes to keeping himself out of foul trouble.

With how important he is to the overall success of the team, Staten knows he has to keep the fouls to a minimum so that he can stay in the game. After all, Staten averages the most minutes per game (37.52) in the conference with more than 100 total minutes more than the player in the second position.

"I understand that I'm going to need to play a lot, so I can't really get bogged down with foul trouble," said Staten. "I try to give my man a lot of cushion, try to pick my spots on when I want to be aggressive on defense and when I need to kind of lay back a little bit. It's been working for me. The biggest thing is I know I can't pick up fouls, so that's how I approach the game."

His approach to the game has not only been far improved on last year's, but it has also been among the best in the nation. The recognition as a Bob Cousy Award finalist is proof.

"It's only given to the best point guard in the country," Huggins said of the award, named after the former Boston Celtic. "I think it's a great honor and I think he deserves it. I don't watch as much basketball, I guess, as a lot of people because I don't have time to, but I don't know anybody who is playing at a higher level than he is now."

Staten will continue to play as well as he can, but not in an effort to win the Bob Cousy Award. His goal now, as it always has been, is to do what he can to help the Mountaineers win basketball games.

"The goal is definitely to win," said Staten. "I'm definitely team first. I want to win every game, I want to win every time we step on the court and I think we all understand that if we win, then the personal accolades will take care of themselves."

 

Fans can vote for Staten by clicking this link.

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