WVU Seniors Still Working To Get Healthy

About two weeks after leaving West Virginia's game against Baylor just minutes into the start of the contest with a sprained ankle, Gary Browne was cleared to begin practicing again.

One of the two Mountaineer seniors who were sidelined for the last three games of the regular season, Browne and fellow point guard Juwan Staten have been working diligently since getting injured to make it back in time for one last try at a postseason run.

"I'm tired of sitting on the bench, especially because these are my last couple of games," Browne said Wednesday after participating in WVU's shootaround at the Sprint Center. "I want to play ... If I can go, I'm going to try to go, but it's the coach's decision. If they want me to stay (out), I'll stay, but I'll be ready to go whenever they need me."

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said Browne is currently at 75 percent, but the San Juan, P.R., native believes that he'll be back to 100 percent and ready to go by the time the NCAA tournament starts next week.

Browne worked his way into being a mainstay in the West Virginia starting lineup early in the season after spending most of his WVU career as a key reserve. He started practicing last week and has slowly felt himself getting closer and closer to being ready to return to full game action, although right now he admits he has been limited.

He said that although he's been practicing, whenever the team goes 5-on-5, he is usually only in when the Mountaineers are working on playing zone. He has yet to get back to working with his team when West Virginia moves into its full-court pressure that will be the true test of whether or not Browne is back and fully ready to go.

"I want to get him well first," Huggins said. "He's not 100 percent yet, so I don't want to do anything that would set him back."

While Browne has made his way back to practice and was back to playing with his team during Wednesday's 40-minute practice period, Staten remained in sweats with ice on his left knee that was injured during the Mountaineers' win against Texas late in the regular season.

"A lot of coming back is wanting to. If you don't want to, you're probably not going to - and he wants to," Huggins said. "He's been very diligent in his rehab and he's been very diligent in everything he's been asked to do by the medical staff. he wants to do more, and sometimes more is less. His attitude has been great though."

Staten was the Big 12's preseason Player of the Year and was the only Mountaineer averaging more than 30 minutes per game before his injury forced him to the sidelines. Although he has been working hard to be ready to return, and Huggins is still unsure of what his status is other than saying he remains day-to-day, the veteran head coach did say Wednesday that, "in all likelihood, he won't play tomorrow," when West Virginia takes on Baylor.

Much like with Browne, there is a major sense of urgency for Staten to return as it is his final opportunity to make his first ever trip to play in the NCAA tournament. As a freshman at Dayton, Staten's team missed the Big Dance and he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules the last time West Virginia earned an at-large bid.

"He's a great, amazing player, but that's one thing he hasn't done," Browne said of his teammate. "When you're that good, you don't care about the stats anymore. You care about winning and accomplishing things as a team, so it's just hard with him but I know we're trying to support him through this.

"We just have to keep going. We have to do it for him."

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