Senior guard Juwan Staten, entering his third and final season in Morgantown, seems ready to finish his career with a bang for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Staten was one of few bright spots the past two years, as the men’s basketball program failed to make an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, saw a number of players transfer to other schools and at points heard low rumblings over Coach Bob Huggins’ job security at West Virginia.
Though a rough stretch for West Virginia adapted to their new home in the Big 12 Conference after leaving the Big East Conference three years ago, Staten’s steady play for the Mountaineers helped him be recognized as one of the best in college basketball.
Prior of this season, Big 12 Conference coaches were the first to recognize Staten by not only making him the only unanimous selection to the league’s preseason All-Big 12 team, but also naming him the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. The honors continued for Staten, as the senior was one of 50 to be named to the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50, which is given to college basketball’s player of the year.
On Wednesday, Staten was announced as one of 25 players to make up the Wooden Award’s Midseason Top 25, as list will further be narrowed down in February and March before voters choose the winner following this year’s national championship game in Indianapolis.
No matter how good Staten has been with nearly 16 points per game and a 15-2 record this year, it’s tough to put him as a frontrunner for the award with such a list of great players and teams that apart of the latest list for the Wooden Award. You don’t have to go far to find steep competition for Staten in the Top 25 in the Oklahoma Sooners’ Buddy Hield, who scored a game-high 21 points in a 86-65 losing effort against West Virginia this past Tuesday.
While Hield poses a challenge individually, the depth of the Big 12 gives Staten a platform to showcase his talent for voters in some high-profile games the remainder of the regular season before this year’s conference tournament and NCAA Tournament in March.
Not counting Saturday’s road game against No. 20 Texas, West Virginia faces eight ranked opponents over the final 14 games of the regular season, including a home-and-home against No. 9 Kansas and visits to Oklahoma and Iowa State. Staten’s effort will be to help his team win and not to impress any voters, but if he has big performances in clutch situations, they won’t be able to be anything besides that at the end of the season.
If he were to win, Staten would be the first player to win the Wooden Award in the rich history at West Virginia, and the first player to win from a Big 12 school since Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin won as a sophomore in 2008.
What an ending that would be for Staten’s career, who already is West Virginia’s player of the year to the fans this season.