April 23, 2011

The Juwan Staten Experiment

This is an unprecedented development in Nittany Lion hoops. I know I've never seen anything quite like this since I've been following the team the last decade. Penn State, for once, is actually adding a D-1 transfer and he is significantly better than Andrew Ott. In fact, he might be one of the most talented players the Lions ever had.

Meet Juwan Staten:

Mr. Staten, nicknamed 'The Blur', obviously has been blessed with some great athletic gifts. The 5'11" 190 lb PG just wrapped up his freshman season at the University of Dayton where he averaged 8.5 PPG and 5.4 APG in 29.1 MPG. He finished with the 10th highest assist rate in the land (39.8%). For the record, Tim Frazier's was a solid 33.3%, good for 43rd in the country. 

If Juwan committed to Penn State coming out of high school, he would've been by far this program's highest rated recruit ever, or at least since Pete Lisicky and definitely the highest since the rise of internet recruit rankings. He was a sure-fire top-100 prospect, coming in at #79 in RSCI's class of 2010. Taran Buie, the man who unofficially held the aforementioned title, didn't come close to cracking the top 100.

Now at this point you might be saying, come the hell on, what's the catch? If this kid is so good, why was he at Dayton? And then why did he leave and come here?

I've been trying to find all of this out myself when I first heard he was visiting for Blue-White weekend. All I came across was a bunch of rambling bitterness across Dayton message boards. Clearly The Blur and his decision to transfer was a touchy subject to these people. But in my search for the story, I came across a great Dayton basketball blog written by Tom Blackburn called the Blackburn Review. When Staten's transfer became official, I reached out to him to get his take on the controversy. Here's what he had to say:

LBU: Juwan was very highly rated coming out of high school. Why did he choose Dayton and does his game match the hype?

BR:  Location, location, location. I believe, and Staten’s recent comments back this up, that he was enamored with being a local hero. As you may know, Staten committed to UD at the end of his sophomore of high school. A verbal commitment from a sophomore in high school is about as firm as your grandmother’s ass. So, there was a bit of trepidation surrounding his true intentions. Staten attended Oak Hill for his senior year and that seemed to lend some credence to the fact that his commitment to Dayton was wavering (or he was at least open to hearing pitches from other schools again – why else transfer to Oak Hill for your senior season?). However, to my surprise, he faxed in his signature on Signing Day and Dayton had bagged its biggest commitment in recent memory. The rest is checkered history.

As far as his performance over his one season in Dayton, it was sort of up and down. Clearly the kid is talented; he has all the tools to be a successful college point guard. His perimeter shooting is a work in progress but was much improved over the second half of the season. He struggles guarding physical opposition, but it’s certainly not a major hindrance by any means. His biggest asset is his ability to penetrate and find the open man – he led the team with 5.4 assists per game.

Honestly, the sky is the limit for Staten. I’d be very excited if I were a Nittany Lion fan.  He had a terrific freshman year and will only get better over the next four years. 

LBU: Players with Staten's talent don't usually come to State College without some kind of baggage. There's been a lot out there about his messy split from Dayton. Could you offer a brief chronological recap of his departure, and your thoughts about who was to blame?

BR: I think there is plenty of blame to go around. First and foremost, you have to question a kid with Staten’s talent and ability going to a place like Dayton in the first place. This is a program that has one NCAA tournament victory in the past twenty years – not exactly a launching pad to greatness or nationwide exposure. As I stated previously, it appears that Staten’s desire to remain close to home was the deciding factor in his college choice. He played on one of the country’s most visible AAU teams, Ohio Red, with guys like Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Adreian Payne and Jordan Sibert among others. While those kids were going off to Ohio State and Michigan State, Staten was pledged to Dayton. It was a move that never made sense from my point of view. Not to say that Staten was slumming it at UD, just that a more prevalent program, one with a tacit history of developing talent, would have probably been a better fit from the outset.

The first crack in the foundation appeared at the end of January. I received a tip that Staten was considering transferring, that he wasn’t totally on board with the coaching philosophy, etc. There were rumors that some of the upperclassmen were jealous of the attention that Staten was allegedly receiving from the staff – which I assume means accusations of preferential treatment. Regardless, I think Staten saw the writing on the wall; his talents were better served at another school – and against better competition.  We covered these issues in detail on our site – here and here.

Juwan Staten will have to
sit out 2011-2012.
PHOTO: Rivals.com
The most absurd result from all this was the asinine story coming out of UD’s camp after Staten announced his intent to transfer out of the program. There were actually people, and even media members, trying to convince Flyer fans that Brian Gregory had asked Staten not to return, that he was no longer welcome at UD. Which, of course, is complete and total bullshit. Staten wanted out of Dayton back in January, he didn’t need a push from Brian Gregory to convince himself that he was better off elsewhere. It was an embarrassing attempt at saving face by both the university and its fans, one that was laughed off by the more rational faction of the UD community. Brian Gregory could have begged on his hands and knees for Staten to stay and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. Staten was leaving on his accord, to indicate otherwise is disdainful at best.

A quick except from a post on the subject may sum it up succinctly:
As soon as the long-standing rumors were confirmed, the Dayton media and the university (yes, I realize those are interchangeable entities) were quick to get out in front of the story. According to reports, Brian Gregory told Staten to take a hike; his All-A10 Freshman performance and untapped potential were no longer welcome in these parts (to be fair, the Ice Trucker does point out that this particular account of events is a rather debatable point of contention – and really doesn’t change a thing about the story anyway). Which is odd considering that Staten was intent on leaving Dayton months before his fateful meeting with Gregory last week. It’s a rather hollow, not to mention callous, course of action to tell someone to leave when they already have their bags packed and are walking out the door (“Oh yeah, well I’ve been cheating on you ever since we broke up!”). But hey, it reads a lot better in the papers and you can at least wheedle some people into believing that you had the moral high ground. Middle America eats that shit up like a deep fried Twinkie.
LBU: There's been a lot of negative talk about Juwan's dad, Billy. What role did he play in all of this? Is he cause for concern?

BR: Not at all. Billy Staten became the strawman in this whole ordeal. Dayton fans didn’t know how to deal with Juwan’s departure and rather than place the blame on a 19 year-old kid, they shifted their sights onto Staten’s father. Reports indicated that Billy Staten was routinely attending practice and basically had an open-door policy with Brian Gregory’s office.

You could spin this in one of two ways: (1) Billy Staten was an overbearing father, who was determined to undermine UD basketball at every turn, or (2) Brian Gregory was complicit in allowing Staten’s father to become too much of an off-the-court distraction. Which narrative do you think your average UD fan bought into hook, line and sinker?

From my point of view, you’d be crazy not to place the onus on Gregory. I’d be hard to imagine a coach like Tom Izzo or Roy Williams opened his doors to a player’s parent and permitting them to voice concerns at their behest.  Then again, there’s a reason those guys are successful coaches and Brian Gregory finished up his Dayton career with a 7-9 conference mark in the Atlantic Ten.

LBU: What system do you think Juwan is suited for best? Do you think PSU will be a good fit?

BR: Honestly, I think that Staten is a good fit for just about any kind of offense. He is extremely quick and athletic, and is almost impossible to stay in front of defensively. He would be best served playing in an offense that relies on his speed and penetration to trigger scoring opportunities. At Dayton, it seemed like his skills didn’t translate to the type of offense the Flyers were running. However, to put it in perspective, Dayton shot 43.6% from the floor – good enough (or bad enough) for 309Th best in the nation. So even with one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, Staten was still able to dish out 5.5 assists per game. This indicates what an effective and efficient player Staten was in his short time in Dayton.

I have no doubt that Staten is going to be a success at Penn State. He is a high-character and high-quality kid who is determined to get better every time he steps onto the court. It’s important to remember, Dayton fans wouldn’t be so bitter about his leaving if he couldn’t play. Staten is going to be an extremely solid player at PSU.

I have to be honest. When I was first heard the news that it was official he was coming here, I was pretty surprised. After reading rumors about the situation, I didn't think the staff would take another chance on a kid that could potentially cause chemistry issues in the untouchable, family-on-three atmosphere Ed stresses. But after reading Tom's perspective on his 'baggage', I'm very excited for Staten's prospects in a PSU uniform. I think a year off will really help Staten mature and mesh with his future teammates, who judging by twitter interaction, he already knows. And while this might sound absolutely ridiculous, I'm impressed with how Staten conducts himself on the social media platform. It gives some credibility in my eyes to the high character, high intelligence reports.

David Jones offered his homework on Staten, too. It seems he does have an overbearing dad, but like Tom said, this is college basketball. His dad won't be in State College, and he won't be in Coach's office 24/7. If somehow he is, then our coach deserves to be fired. If his dad becomes a problem, that's the coach's fault. Anyway, if Juwan was really that big of a risk, I don't think Clemson, California, Louisville, West Virginia, or Michigan State would've been reaching out to get him.

Juwan's arrival unofficially locks up the PG position for the next two years with Tim Frazier and Trey Lewis in the fold. The Blur will have to sit out the 2011-2012 season due to transfer rules, but will be a sophomore on the 2012-2013 squad. PSU still has 2 open scholarships, but over the next 2 years. They've already missed out on Anthony Hubbard and Josh Richardson, but I'd still expect them to fill one 'ship this Spring with a '3' guy between:
We will get a clearer picture of what the staff will want to do with the 2012 class after this spring signing period, but some names to keep track of when AAU starts to pick up:
  • Matt Christiansen - 6'8" F - visited in fall
  • Sean Sheldon - 6'9" F - visited in fall, PSU at HS game in winter
  • Terry Turner - 6'6" F - PSU offer
  • Sheldon Jeter - 6'6" F
  • Devin Thomas - 6'8" F
  • Mike Zangari - 6'9" F
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  1. I will admit, the overbearing father stories caused me to be somewhat concerned about bridging this kid into the program. At the same time though, I figured that Ed would be extra careful after all the heartache with Buie and would not have let Staten into the program if he thought it was going to be a Buie 2.0 situation. Nicely done, sir.

  2. I will say I still have one concern. There was much about how Juwan didn't like Dayton's style of play. Then I heard Dayton's style of play consisted of weaves at the arc, followed by a forced three at the shot clock buzzer.


  3. Blackburn Review HATED anything to do with Gregory and took every opportunity to personally attack him and his family as well as the university for hiring him. Notice how the wonder why Staten would go to UD when they've only had 2 NCAA appearances and one win under Gregory but they think it's great for PSU whio has had fewer appearances and wins in the same time period? Next time you want an honest assesment of PSU football be sure to go and ask a Pitt fan