West Virginia Basketball: Who will replace Staten and Browne?


West Virginia basketball came to a close after a loss to No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and with that loss we’re already looking forward to next season.

The Mountaineers exceeded expectations this season. Not too many outside the strong West Virginia fandom did anyone believe West Virginia was capable of making it to the Sweet 16. With plenty of young talent on the roster and only two seniors, expectations hovered around the Mountaineers having an average season.

Mar 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Tarik Phillip (12) reacts during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. Kentucky won 78-39. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The young talent and two seniors, Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, however, meshed nicely and it made for an entertaining, defensive-driven team.

Staten and Browne have played their final game in a West Virginia uniform, though. While an NBA career seems to be in the future of Staten and perhaps a career in basketball overseas for Browne — the West Virginia basketball team won’t have to go to great lengths to replace the two seniors.

The aforementioned young talent played a huge role in the Mountaineers’ successful season. Players like Daxter Miles Jr., Jevon Carter, and Tarik Phillip have all brought high hopes to the guard positions.

It’s never easy replacing players who have been with the program for several seasons and contributed a lot over the years. A player like Staten, from a talent and leader standpoint is certainly disheartening to lose. From his first season at West Virginia, he grew into a terrific point guard who was one of the best in the Big 12 conference and country.

The best option to replace Staten is Phillip. While he wasn’t a starter, he did see time and near the end of the season he began to shine.

Phillip’s best moment arguably came in the NCAA tournament against Buffalo in the second round. With the game close, he knocked down a big-time 3-pointer to really secure West Virginia’s win.

At the beginning of the season Phillip saw very scarce time, but as injuries to Staten and Brown kept them out of a handful of games, Phillip was asked to give head coach Bob Huggins production.

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He’s still young and has a lot to learn still, but there were flashes of promise and he could step in and with time, fill the shoes of Staten and dare I say outshine Staten.

Another player who can fill the void left by Browne is Miles. Already a starter all season, Miles has the  upmost potential to be a stellar player by the time he’s a senior at West Virginia, especially under Huggins.

He has the offensive fire power. Near the end of the season he began to hit shots fro beyond the arc and was one of, if not the best 3-point shooter the team had to offer. This was also due to the fact he altered his shot — Huggins explained that he simply raised his elbow a bit more. This also shows he’s willing to learn. His offense was solid and with room to grow he could be an even better shooter and better at driving the lane.

Not only is he a useful tool on offense, but Miles’ defense was a highlight. He’s a menace on the defensive side.

He’s quick and has the type of mindset that Huggins’ craves and deserves. He plays full-throttle on defense, from being in a player’s face to having quick hands leading to defections and steals. He’s all over the place and it was effective in the style of play in which West Virginia played this season.

With Huggins expected to not shy away from the “Press Virginia” ways, Miles will progress as the seasons past and I wouldn’t put it past him to maybe claim a defensive player of the year award.

Other players like Carter, Jaysean Paige and even Nathan Adrian can help the cause as well, but of the young guns from this season, Phillip and Miles seem to stand out the most.