West Virginia will need to follow Juwan Staten’s lead

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After missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, the West Virginia program endured a tumultuous spring where Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers’ second and third leading scorers, both decided to transfer.

Despite the losses of two talented guards, especially Eron Harris, who was fourth in the Big 12 in scoring, the Mountaineers return their top player from a season ago: Juwan Staten. His return is crucial for Mountaineers, who enter the 2014-2015 season with a new cast of characters.

From the Mike Casazza Charleston Daily Mail:

For now, Staten can lead by example, and Huggins bragged that Staten “certainly sets an example with his work ethic.” Staten’s timeline on Twitter features regular reminders that he’s been running in the woods or working out in the gym, messages that are important because the work does happen and because his peers can see that he’s out there doing his part.

“He lives in the gym,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t just go in the gym and shoot balls. He’s in there working at it. That, I think, has kind of permeated to a degree throughout our team.”

Staten was second in the Big 12 in scoring and was tied for the lead in assists with 18.1 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was also second on the team in rebounding. The 6-foot-1 guard will be surrounded by a mostly new-look back court made up of returnee Gary Browne, JuCo commits Billydee Williams, Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige, as well as incoming freshmen Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, both three-star recruits.

The West Virginia frontline, headlined by Devin Williams, will be bolstered by the additions of Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon, a top-60 recruit in 2013. Both forwards will be eligible this season.

Last season, the Mountaineers finished seventh in the Big 12 standings, ahead of Oklahoma State, which received one of the conference’s seven tournament berths. For a time, West Virginia was sitting on the bubble, making up for a weak non-conference schedule with wins over Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State. But six losses in nine games down the stretch dashed the Mountaineers’ hopes of dancing in March.

Harris and Henderson transferring hurts West Virginia, but a first-team Big 12 selection surrounded by talent, albeit young and/or inexperienced, gives Huggins something to work with.

“I think they’ll get better and better as the thing goes on,” Huggins told Casazza. “I think we have to have the same kind of selfless attitude that I think the really good teams have. I don’t have any indication at this point in time that that’s not going to happen.”

Juwan Staten to return to West Virginia for senior season

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West Virginia head coach Bobby Huggins will have his top scorer back for the 2014-2015 season, according to a report early on Sunday from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

Juwan Staten will be back in Morgantown for his senior year his father told Goodman, ending rumors that the 6-foot-1 guard would declare for the 2014 NBA Draft.

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

“He’s going back to school,” Billy Staten told Goodman. “I’m not sure what was written, but he’s going back to West Virginia.”

Staten is coming off a season where he averaged 18.1 points 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. The return of Staten is made more important for the Mountaineers after the departure of sophomore guard Eron Harris. The 6-foot-3 Harris was the second leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, but announced on Monday he intended to transfer, electing to finish his college career closer to his home in Indianapolis.

West Virginia finished seventh in the Big 12, a conference that fielded seven NCAA tournament teams in 2014. The Mountaineers ended with a 17-16 (9-9 Big 12) record this season, losing to Georgetown in the first round of the NIT.