Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Juwan Staten Stars as West Virginia Knocks Off N.C. State, Impresses NBA Scouts
By CHRIS RUSSELLNEW YORK — West Virginia took on N.C. State Saturday night as part of the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.
In a sluggish battle where there were a total of 52 fouls, No. 22 West Virginia came out on top, 83-69, behind Juwan Staten’s 24 points and 6 assists.
Power forward Devin Williams scored 16 points and tallied 8 rebounds for the Mountaineers. N.C. State was led by junior guard Trevor Lacey’s 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
“Well, we have a lot of first-year players, junior college guys and freshmen on this team,” the 5-foot-11 Staten told SNY.tv. “With me being a senior and the role I have on this team being the captain, I just kinda have to step up, take the shots and make plays.”
Early in the first half, Mounties head coach Bob Huggins received a technical foul during a timeout. Huggins mockingly applauded the referee by saying, “You can tell everyone you gave me one (technical). They’ll buy you a beer back home.”
The technical ignited the Mountaineers to a 41-32 halftime lead.
With the victory, the Mountaineers are 10-1 and are off to their best start since the Final Four team in 2009-2010, when they won their first 11 games. Staten is a big part of their early success and is building an NBA Draft resume in the process.
“Staten, there late in the game just took it over,” said N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried. “I think it was a one-point game at one point in time, I thought he said, ‘I’m going to play like the Big 12 Player of the Year,’ and he had four or five possessions in a row where he took the game over, like a player of his caliber should.”
Since transferring from Dayton, the 5-foot-11 point guard from Oak Hill Academy has found a home in Morgantown. Staten earned All-Big 12 First Team honors last year and has been the go-to player for Huggins this season.
Staten would often come through in the clutch by connecting on key jump shots and distributing the ball to open teammates.
The Bob Cousy award finalist has caught the attention of NBA scouts. Staten is currently projected as the No. 52 pick in the NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com.
“Solid, handles, passes, shoots the pull-up very well,” one scout in attendance told SNY.tv. “Covers very well, second-round pick.”
Like previous Huggins’ teams, the success of the Mountaineers’ comes from forcing turnovers. Coming into this game, West Virginia averaged 23 forced turnovers on their opponents (second nationally). In this game, they forced 23 turnovers.
“Juwan defensively, he played as hard today as he has all year,” said Huggins.
For West Virginia to make a deep run in March, Staten will have to put the Mountaineers on his shoulders, much like he did against N.C. State.
Photo: Adam Hunger/ USA Today Sports
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.