WVU looking for scorers to help Staten
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Defections at West Virginia put coach Bob Huggins on the spot to find some scoring help for Big 12 preseason player of the year Juwan Staten.
Front-line additions should soften the burden. Forwards Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon will make their debuts after sitting out last season.
The Mountaineers were outrebounded in most of their Big 12 games and Huggins believes the roster is better suited to overcome that as well as improve the team’s inside scoring. Macon is 6-foot-9 and Holton is 6-7. West Virginia also returns 6-9 sophomores Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian and Brandon Watkins.
“I like our front line,” Huggins said.
Staten returns for his senior season after leading the Big 12 in scoring at 18.1 points per game. He also averaged a league-high 37 minutes on the court.
“I kind of want him to do the same thing he did a year ago,” Huggins said. “I would like to get the same production with not as many minutes.”
Staten, who was slowed by a twisted ankle at the start of preseason practice, was named preseason player of the year in a vote by Big 12 coaches.
“Preseason is great,” Staten said. “Postseason is what I want.”
The Mountaineers went 17-16 in 2013-14, missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. That hadn’t happened to a Huggins-coached team in 22 years.
“What’s the difference between having a great year and a good year?” Huggins said. “It’s making some shots at the end, making some free throws and getting some stops when you have to. If we do that, we have a chance to be really good. Think about how many games we lost at the end of the game last year. We lost a ton of them for a lot of reasons.”
Guards Eron Harris and Terry Henderson transferred after last season and forward Remi Dibo left to play in Europe. They combined for 36 points per game. West Virginia returns only three other players who started a significant number of games.
Some things to watch at West Virginia this season:
PLAY SOME D: Huggins said his team’s desire to play defense has improved after lackluster efforts a year ago, when opponents made 45 percent of their field goal tries. “We’re finally maybe going to try to guard somebody, which would be something new,” he said.
IN NEED OF 3s: Harris transferred to Michigan State. Henderson transferred to North Carolina State. And Dibo, who wanted to pursue a professional career, signed in August with a team in the British Basketball League. Together they made nearly three-fourths of West Virginia’s 3-pointers last season. Adrian is the only returnee with more than 10. Staten, who attempted only 15 of them, has indicated his willingness to shoot from beyond the arc.
WILLIAMS THE PASSER: Williams led the Mountaineers in rebounding as a freshman at 7.2 per game and was fourth in scoring at 8.4 points. Huggins said if Williams learns to pass the ball more, “it gives us another weapon and I think he’s made a lot of progress to that end. Before he kind of bounced it to score. I think he’s bouncing it to create opportunities for other people now.”
CALL HIM SPONGE: Holton earned the nickname “Sponge” after an elementary school gym teacher compared his energy and playfulness to SpongeBob SquarePants — that and he likes to soak up rebounds. “It just stuck with me,” Holton said. “Playing with energy makes everybody else play with energy.”
GUARD HEAVY: Ten of West Virginia’s 17 players are guards. Gary Browne is the only returnee besides Staten with a significant amount of playing experience.