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Mike Casazza: WVU guard Staten not at home beyond arc

WACO, Texas -- Juwan Staten hasn't made a 3-pointer in two years.

I sat at my laptop and messed around with different ways to get to that point. I backspaced through sentences and reworded paragraphs.

The 6-foot-1 Staten only barely remembers the last 3-pointer he made, which came against Charlotte on Feb. 16, 2011. That makes Saturday's home game against Texas Tech (9-13, 2-9 Big 12) an even two years since he was 1-for-1 in that victory, a small part of a 13-point, four-assist effort.

Nothing since.

"I hit them in practice all the time," he said.

That doesn't count, though maybe it should. Let's be fair and remember Staten has practiced the game more than he's played games during this drought. He transferred from Dayton at the end of his freshman season in 2011, the one when he was just 4-for-26 from 3-point range. He sat out last season at WVU and is 0-for-7 from 3-point range this season.

In his past 32 games, he's 0-for-16. Put another way, there are just two regulars on scholarship in the Big 12 Conference who are smaller than 6-foot-5 who haven't made a 3-pointer this season.

One is Kansas freshman Rio Adams, who's played in 14 games for about four minutes an outing. The other is Staten, who's played in 23 games and averages 28.9 minutes. Nobody has more than his seven attempts without a make - though teammate Volodymyr Gerun is close at 0-for-6.

But Adams and Gerun are spare parts. Staten is not.

He led the Atlantic 10 in assists as a freshman. His teammates voted him a team captain before the start of the season. He's second on the team in scoring and only nine points, or three 3-pointers, from overtaking Aaric Murray for the lead. Staten averages 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals and is a reliable 75.6-percent shooter at the free throw line.

He's good at basketball, but specifically talented when it comes to shooting a basketball.

"My whole life, I've never been a 3-point shooter," he said. "If I'm wide open, I'll take it."

And there's another quality assist from Staten, because it sets up an interesting debate. Can you be an optimal point guard without the threat of a 3-point shot?

"That's a good question," he said. "If you can find other ways to be effective in the games, I don't really think 3-pointers are that important."

Rarely will you see an opponent play as far off a point guard as some tend to do Staten. Scouting reports are tried and true by now and you better believe Staten's says he won't, or can't, shoot the 3.

So opponents drop back and pretty much dare him to let it go, not unlike what they did to former West Virginia guard Joe Mazzulla.

That slack can let defenders congest passing lanes and devote attention to Staten's teammates cutting and wheeling around the floor. That's generally regarded as a bad thing in basketball.

Witness the exploits of Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson, the conference's preseason player of the year and its leader in scoring and assists so far.

Opponents stay near him because he'll shoot and make 3s. He's 58 for 160 this season, but he knows it, too, and will blow by defenders who get too close.

He 15 had points and nine assists in Wednesday's 80-60 win against the Mountaineers. WVU (12-12, 5-6) ducked under screens to prevent drives and stayed above screens to deter 3-pointers and trapped him and pushed him outside on screens to take the ball out of his hands.

"It makes the defense worry," WVU's Jabarie Hinds said. "You don't know what he's going to do. He might come down one time and use a ball screen and shoot.

He might come down and attack and pitch. He might take it to the basket. You don't know."

There's no such guesswork involved with guarding Staten. In fact, a Baylor defender dropped back far enough off Staten to discourage a pass into the post to WVU's Deniz Kilicli. Staten waited for Kilicli to get open and the Staten's defender knew he could basically double-team Kilicli because Staten wouldn't shoot. Kilicli was called for a three seconds violation, one of WVU's 18 turnovers.

Staten does have ways to impact a game without long jumpers. He has 11 assists and one turnover the past two games and 39 and 18 in Big 12 games and he said it's because of the space.

"It gives me a lot of time, a lot of room to see the floor and see who's open," he said. "I feel like if a guard is lying back off me, they're relaxed and think I'm going to settle for a shot."

Staten won't, or can't, and has a knack for getting inside. He uses his 6-1, 190-pound body to nudge by and beneath defenders for layups and short, more makeable jumpers, thanks again to the space he sees and attacks.

"I feel like it's easier for me to beat a defender off the dribble when my defender is back," Staten said. "They're relaxed and not expecting me to drive."

There's good in that, especially at a time when players are bigger and faster and cover more territory on a court that hasn't grown in ages. Staten knows his strengths as well as ways to use them to work on his limitations.

"I would consider myself a rhythm shooter," he said. "If I think I've got it going, I'm going to take a couple. But I know me being a rhythm shooter that I want to get more shots closer to the rim because those are going to have a better chance to go in. You want to get shots closer to the rim and get in a rhythm and move out."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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