Having a tight knit family on the court can be the difference between victory and defeat. Last season, the Mountaineers appeared disconnected, and that aspect was only made more apparent after the transfers of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson and the decision to play professionally overseas by Remi Dibo. With high hopes of a good returning cast, the team was significantly reduced offensively, and the potential and possibility for success during this upcoming season was in question. But Juwan Staten, said he does not feel as if leadership nor the overall skill of the team should be in question, especially with the freshman additions combined with the eligibility of Elijah Macon.
“The energy level is higher,” said Staten in his first address with the media since the opening of the 2014-2015 basketball season. “The IQ level, as a whole, is higher, and we have more competitors.”
Those competitors are going to be playing a vital role this season on both sides of the ball. Joining Staten, as seniors, are Kevin Noreen - who might not see time until after January, if then - and Gary Browne, and both are experienced leaders. This offseason the team participated in many bonding activities, such as their annual softball game, a trip to Cheat Lake, and a skeet shooting contest. Staten said all, in different ways, helped bring this team together.
“Practice didn’t have that first practice day feel,” Staten noted. The point guard said it felt like another day in the gym because of the time spent together on and off the court.
All of which helps the team get a feel for each others personalities which hopefully translates on the court. Even head coach Bob Huggins noticed the immediate improvement. Huggins, in his address to the media, said that compared to last year this groups leadership and work ethic is great. For Staten, Huggins did say he wants to limit the point guards minutes this season so he can be fresher for the length of the season. Staten retorted saying it is ultimately the coaches decision, but loves being on the court.
“Being more rested just means I can play longer and harder,” Staten said in response to Huggins comments. Staten averaged 37.2 minutes per game, which was fifteenth highest in the league a year ago.
Barring injury Staten is expected to have a huge season. He was also selected as a preseason second-team All-American, and is projected to go in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft.