MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Almost 20 years ago, Bob Huggins led Cincinnati onto a basketball court in Orlando, Fla., to play the California Golden Bears. Who and what he saw that night was unlike anyone and anything he would see until last season.
The once-in-a-generation exploits of a star from the past were mimicked twice by a certain star of the future.
In WVU's two games against Oklahoma State last season, Huggins saw in freshman Marcus Smart what he'd seen in February 1994.
"I thought he was absolutely terrific," Huggins said over the summer. "I don't know that we've played against a guy that controls the game from the point guard position like he does since I was at Cincinnati and we played against Jason Kidd."
It was Kidd who led Cal to an 89-80 victory in overtime with 22 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals and played all but the final 20 or so seconds of a feverish non-conference showdown.
Afterward, Huggins told the Sun Sentinel, "Jason delivers the ball, gets the ball to the open man. I'd kill for a guy that could do that."
Huggins has one now, and so impressed is Huggins with junior Juwan Staten that he's running out of ways to compliment him. When a new face of an unfamiliar place asks Huggins about just how good Staten is, Huggins find some assembly or words to say it's neither new nor surprising.
"He's kind of been doing it all year," Huggins said after Monday's win at Texas Tech and about a dozen or so other occasions this season.
As good as the preseason All-American and Big 12 player of the year Smart has been for Oklahoma State, it had been Staten who was the only player in the nation averaging at least 16 points (16.8), six rebounds (6.1) and six assists (6) before Iowa State's DeAndre Kane (16.1, 7.1, 6.29) joined the club Tuesday night.
Staten's matchup with Smart is the headline attraction when the Mountaineers (10-5, 2-0 Big 12) play host to the 11th-ranked Cowboys (12-2, 1-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday inside the Coliseum.
"He's definitely a confident player," Staten said. "He's very strong at the guard position. He's a matchup problem because he's a bigger guard. He plays hard. He's tough. His numbers speak for themselves."
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smart, who Huggins believes would have been the No. 1 pick in last year's NBA Draft, averages 17 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4 assists. He leads the Big 12 in steals per game (2.43) and is in the top 10 in the league in 3-point baskets and field-goal percentage and has taken more free throws than everyone but Oklahoma's Jordan Woodard.