Staten Shows How Special He Is Again

There's a certain feeling you get sometimes when watching a player when you can sense you're getting to witness something special.

The last time I felt it was watching Kevin Jones play during his senior season with West Virginia. Jones was so consistent, such a force for the Mountaineers. He was the only player in the nation to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game that season, was named an all-American by various national media outlets and should have been named the Big East Conference's Player of the Year.

It was like every time you watched him that season, Jones did something that made you realize you were watching a season that doesn't happen all that often in college basketball - and he did so effortlessly, just letting the game come to him and playing the way he had any other time he stepped out on the floor.

As WVU prepares to end its regular season on Saturday, I can't help but have that same type of feeling whenever I watch Juwan Staten play this year.

It was something that was evident again in Wednesday night's loss to Oklahoma, a game in which the Mountaineers lost by 10 but Staten was (again) magnificent. For much of the game, he was their offense. Staten scored, distributed and ran the offense with a calmness that was needed for this team - and it's been that way all season long.

Staten scored 24 points in the game, including 10 of WVU's first 12, and his three assists moved him into a tie with Mike Boyd for the most assists in a single season at West Virginia.

But Staten's special season has a different feel than Jones' did. With KJ, it was one final hurrah for a player who many thought was going to go down in history as one of the all-time greats this program had ever seen. The season came after his decision to turn down the NBA for one last year with Bob Huggins and his teammates, a farewell tour of sorts during West Virginia's final year in the Big East.

That's not the case this year for Staten. This magical season the junior from Dayton, Ohio, has had has been one of redemption.

A year ago, the game that had always come so easily to Staten was difficult. He scored in double figures in just three of WVU's last 20 games - combining for a total of seven points in the last four games of the Mountaineers' dreadful 13-19 season, a total in which he eclipsed in the first seven minutes of the Oklahoma game Wednesday night. He was in the doghouse for a lot of the season and wasn't playing the way he knew he could play.

He was wasting potential.

And this year, he's back to playing the game of basketball the way he had always played it. The way he played it when he became one of the Atlantic 10's best point guards as a freshman at Dayton and caught the attention of a lot of people who thought he could be one of the best in the country at some point.

As a team, West Virginia has scored 2,340 points this season. Staten has scored 547 of those (an average of 18.2 points per game), and counting the 452 points the Mountaineers have scored off of assists by Staten, the junior point guard has had a part in 43 percent of this team's points this season.

To put it simply, Staten is not only one of the Big 12's best, he's one of the best in the country. People are starting to realize it, as it's become harder to ignore what the Bob Cousy Award finalist has done. He's putting up numbers that not many players in the country have been able to put up, and he's doing so consistently.

He went from someone who was fighting to just stay in the lineup a year ago to someone who is likely going to go down as one of the best point guards to ever play in a West Virginia uniform.

A lot of times he's been the reason WVU has been in games, and the reason it was in the conversation for a tournament bid not long ago. He should be a no-brainer selection for first team all-conference, and should get consideration to be among the top candidates for the Big 12 Player of the Year.

Seasons like this should never be taken for granted. You never know how long it's going to be before you get to see another one like it.

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