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No word on when Staten will play again

MORGANTOWN -- Through the first 13 games of West Virginia's basketball season, there seemed to be only one irreplaceable part.

Starting lineups changed (11 of the team's 13 scholarship players have now started), the rotation was altered by the game (if not the half or the minute), players went in and out of coach Bob Huggins' doghouse (only five have now played in every game) and time on the floor would often vary from most of one game to a token appearance the next.

Yet through it all, there was Juwan Staten.

The sophomore point guard had not only started every game, he was on the floor far more than anyone else. On a team on which no one averages significantly more than 20 minutes a night, Staten was playing more than 32. In a seven-game stretch beginning with an upset of Virginia Tech, Staten averaged more than 35 minutes. Freshman Terry Henderson was on the floor more than anyone else in those seven games and averaged just 21.7 minutes.

All of which made Staten's benching after the first half of last Wednesday's game rather shocking. But it was no more shocking than the reason.

"It's my team, not his,'' Huggins said at the time. "We talk all about being on the same page. I wrote the book, so he's going to be on the same page with everybody else or he's going to continue to sit over there.''

And Staten has. He sat for the second half of that Texas game and watched as the Mountaineers rallied to beat the Longhorns on the road. Then he sat for the entire game with No. 18 Kansas State Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, doing little more than watching West Virginia's 65-64 loss.

The question is, of course, how long Staten's effective suspension lasts. Well, Huggins isn't sure. The Mountaineers (8-7, 1-2 Big 12) next travel to Ames for a Wednesday night game against Iowa State (11-4, 1-1). Will Staten even make the trip?

"Yeah,'' Huggins said. "He's going to travel.''

Playing, though, is another issue. But Huggins seemed to indicate that there was a pretty good chance.

"We all make mistakes,'' Huggins said Monday. "He's going to travel and we've got two days of practice [including Monday's] before Iowa State. We'll see where everything is and what happens from there.''

What exactly Staten's transgressions are still isn't quite clear except that it's merely an issue of doing the things Huggins wants done on the floor, when he wants them done.

Statistically, at least, it wasn't hard to see why Staten played so much until his benching.

He led the Mountaineers in scoring, averaging 11 points, as well as assists and steals and wasn't turning the ball over an unreasonable amount. He isn't a great shooter, but he had a better shooting percentage than any of WVU's perimeter players except freshman Eron Harris. He was also shooting 82.5 percent from the free-throw line.

In his previous two games, Staten had averaged 14 points, shot over 50 percent, made all 11 of his free throws and averaged 6.5 assists against 3.0 turnovers.

Obviously, though, the transfer from Dayton was not executing either the offense or the defense the way Huggins wanted, so he was taken out with just over five minutes to play in the first half at Texas and hasn't reappeared since.

It's not the first time this season Huggins has benched a player for varying amounts of time for an apparent disinterest in doing things his way. Nor is it likely to be the last.

"I remember [former Temple coach] John Chaney saying that he was going to put everybody in this boat and we're all going to have an oar,'' Huggins said. "And everybody's going to row in the same direction. And the guys that don't row in the right direction, we're going to throw 'em out of the damn boat.

"That's pretty honest. That's pretty honest and that's pretty right. If you want to get in the boat, we're all going to row in the same direction. Otherwise we're going to throw you out of the boat.''

West Virginia obviously is better with Staten, or at least with a cooperative Staten. If for no other reason, Staten is a plus because he adds another backcourt body to a team that seems to have hitched its collective wagon to playing hard and relentless on both ends of the court, a style that requires as many capable bodies as possible.

But Huggins insists he won't play again until he plays the way Huggins wants him to play.

"Everybody's got to be on the same page,'' Huggins said. "If everybody's not on the same page, you don't have a very good team.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1

 


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