Juwan Staten will go down as one of the great guards in West Virginia University men’s basketball history, and now the Mountaineer alum is back in Morgantown for a masters degree and is chipping in with the basketball team as a graduate assistant manager.
It is a good deal for both sides, with Staten getting his foot in the door in the coaching profession as he works on his sports management masters degree, while Bob Huggins and his staff get a program standout not long removed from his playing days to help guide a mostly young group of West Virginia guards.
Staten, who starred for WVU from 2012 through 2015, is one of six players in program history with at least 1,000 points, 400 assists, 100 steals and 250 rebounds during his career and was the 2015 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year in addition to being a 2014 and 2015 All-Big 12 first team pick and a 2015 Senior CLASS Award second-team All American.
“[Staten] is a great guy from them to bounce things off of,” Huggins said Monday during a video call with the media. “Wanny was a heck of a college player and a heck of a pro. He’s been there, done it and seen it. He’s had his ups and downs like everybody does and has. I think he relates to them better. The year I was a GA here, they all came to me because I had been there before — not because I was smarter or anything else. It was just that I had been there before and I had been through it, and Wanny is the same way.
“Wanny’s got a lot of knowledge — a lot of knowledge I didn’t have. I didn’t go to Europe and play. I didn’t play professionally like he has. He has a wealth of knowledge that they would be foolish not to try to absorb some of the things he knows about that other people don’t.”
After finishing his WVU playing career, Staten went undrafted before signing with the Golden State Warriors but was waived after appearing in one preseason game. He spent the rest of the season in the NBA Developmental League (now known as the G League). For the 2016-2017 season Staten went abroad and was named the most valuable foreign player in Finland’s top league before making a move to the second-tier of professional basketball in France. He also added time in Estonia and Hungary to his playing resume before returning to the United States and going back to college.
Now that he’s back on campus, West Virginia guards are taking Huggins’ advice and soaking up any knowledge Staten is trying to share.
“He has been huge,” WVU sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride said of Staten’s presence. “All the experience he brings to the table from playing pro, he just knows the ropes. We’re trying to learn everything and take it all in. He does a great job at explaining things like making sure we understand how to come off ball screens and talking us up and trying to help us become better leaders.”
Staten being around is not the single reason West Virginia’s guards have been much better this season, but the players have said having the former Mountaineer around has certainly been a part of it. McBride has seen his scoring average jump from 9.5 points per game as a freshman to 15.1 this season and nearly has as many assists as he did last season in a little more than 250 fewer minutes played so far this season.
Junior college transfer Taz Sherman is another player that said he has benefited from Staten’s guidance. Sherman was one of the country’s top scorers in junior college but failed to meet the expectations that brought during his first season in Morgantown. Now, Sherman appears much more comfortable on the floor, and it has shown in his stat line. The WVU senior has been a force off the bench so far, averaging 12.4 points per game while connecting on 22 of 58 3-point attempts (37.9 percent) and 33 of 37 foul shots (89.2 percent).
“Having Wanny around has been great,” Sherman said. “He shows you a different type of insight. He played on this court recently. He played in the NBA, played overseas, played professional ball — so he has a different type of knowledge than me. He tells you straight up what it is and, of course, he helps you off the court. He works on things like — he helped me with ballhandling and getting to spots offensively — not being complacent, don’t make every shot a tough shot and try to get easy shots. Having Wanny is definitely a great help here.”