Mitch Vingle: Staten, Holton visit South Charleston
Monday was a busy day in regard to WVU hoops.
Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins was recuperating in a Pittsburgh hospital after hip surgery. Former player Eron Harris announced his next stop would be Michigan State. (Harris, by the way, is moving a couple hours closer to his hometown of Indianapolis. He listed a desire to be closer as a reason for leaving Morgantown. So there’s that.) We first reported that Billydee Williams, with perhaps the coolest name ever, has not only committed but signed with Huggins.
And then there was this basketball camp being run by South Charleston High coach Vic Herbert at his town’s community center. Right there, working with the kids on Monday, were two individuals who will be the most affected by all of the above: Mountaineer players Juwan Staten and Jonathan Holton.
Even for the swift Staten it’s been a whirlwind. He was supposed to drive back to Morgantown and then up to see Huggins later Monday. He’s been driving back and forth between Morgantown and his hometown of Dayton to work out. Summer camps are upon him.
Then there have been issues. Backcourt mate Harris is gone. Ditto another in Terry Henderson. Ditto forward Remi Dibo.
“They were definitely a part of the team and played big roles,” Staten said at the SCCC. “But, I mean, we’re looking forward. I guess we didn’t have the same views as those guys. But Huggs is doing a great job of bringing guys in. We’re looking forward to getting back on the court and working toward a common goal.”
Both Staten and Holton said the transfers were unexpected.
“They didn’t hint at being unhappy,” Staten said. “It came as a surprise to me [in regard to] all three of them. It’s nothing they discussed with the team. I wasn’t anything I knew about. I wasn’t involved in any of that.”
“It was a surprise,” Holton said. “I don’t really know or want to get into it. Whatever happens happens.”
In regard to the Harris news, the Mountaineer forward simply said, “I wish him the best.”
With Harris, Henderson and Dibo, expectations of WVU were high for next season. Now?
“I think we’ll be fine without them,” Staten said. “Huggs is a great coach. We have a lot of great players coming in. Jon sat out; Elijah [Macon] sat out. They’ll be able to play this year. The freshmen are a year older. We’re eager to get out there and prove a lot of people wrong.”
Among the freshmen with a year of experience are Devin Williams, Nate Adrian and Brandon Watkins. What Huggins could do is go big by starting Holton, Macon and Williams in addition to Staten and another guard.
“We can be very athletic, energized and very good defensively,” Holton said of the frontcourt.
“That’s definitely a strong frontcourt,” Staten said. “Jon is a do-it-all guy. He has energy for days. He never stops moving. He gets his hands on everything, whether it’s a tipped pass, a rebound or whether he keeps a rebound alive. He makes good passes and can shoot the ball. He’s a do-it-all guy.
“Elijah is the same way. He’s definitely active on the glass. He can put the ball on the floor. He moves very well for a big man. He can shoot the 15- to 17-footer. He can play defense and is extremely athletic. Both of those guys help us in the area we didn’t have last year: athleticism.”
Also working the camp Monday was a player that soon could earn a Mountaineer scholarship offer: South Charleston rising junior Brandon Knapper. (“I think he’s a pretty good player,” Staten said. “He has the mid-range game. As a player that uses that a lot, it stood out to me. I just shared that with him. I told him, ‘Don’t let that mid-range game go. It will take you as far as you want it to.’”) Mountaineer fans, though, seem most eager to see the incoming WVU class of recruits: Billydee Williams, Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip.
“I’ve seen them all on their visits,” Staten said. “They all have a lot of talent. They’ll allow us to do some things we couldn’t last year. We’ll be more athletic. That should help us out a lot.”
“All the new guys bring something to the table, either defensively or by their shooting abilities,” Holton said.
It certainly helps Huggins’ cause that Staten is still at the table. For a while the guard flirted with the idea of applying for the NBA draft.
“I didn’t get an official report back [from the NBA on his draft status],” Staten said. “But I get a lot of information. I was mostly hearing I’d go in the second round, the middle-to-late second round... The odds probably weren’t there to be a first-round pick. That’s something I really want to obtain. That’s a goal I set. I felt coming back this year would help me achieve that.”
Holton, meanwhile, is hoping to make a mark after sitting out last season.
“I’m very excited to play, to get back and play beside this guy, one of the best players in the country,” Holton said nodding at Staten. “I can’t wait to get the opportunity.”
On Monday, however, the pair had the opportunity to take a break from the whirlwind and have a little fun teaching kids.
“I always love working with the kids,” Staten said. “It’s crazy hearing some of the things they say. But it’s easy making kids smile. And smiles are contagious.”
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.