For teams, they say to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. But for athletes, sometimes to be the best you’ve got to play with them. That’s what Juwan Staten did to kick off his professional basketball career, and it’s paid dividends.
Since his high school days, it’s been no secret that Staten is a success-minded basketball player. No matter where he’s put himself, he’s always had the goal to be the best that he can be, whether that meant transferring to finish his high school ball at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia or leaving the University of Dayton to finish his collegiate career as a Mountaineer at West Virginia.
In high school, Staten led Marshall High School to an Ohio state championship in 2009, scoring 28 points in that final game. Then, he helped Oak Hill to a national ranking of No. 7 the next season. When he decided to go to Dayton as a four-star recruit, he wound up being the highest-praised recruit during the coach’s tenure.
But as the Flyers had many struggles during his freshman season, Staten wanted to put himself in a better situation, ultimately landing with the Mountaineers, where he went on to earn All-Big 12 first-team and defensive team status and wound up being one of the best point guards in the nation.
That, however, didn’t translate into being a top-tier draft choice. But, as fate would have it, Staten found himself on the Sacramento Kings summer league team after going undrafted.
But knee pain kept him from making the impact that he thought he would and he once again found himself searching for a home. Luckily for him, the NBA champions came calling and Staten signed with the Golden State Warriors.
Even if was just for a few weeks, the time spent with the champions played a huge part in Staten’s development. Seeing guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igualdala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut work together on the court taught the young point guard plenty about being an NBA-caliber player.
“They really showed me what it meant to be a pro,” Staten said, thinking back to his days spent with the Warriors in the preseason. “Steph is the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen. I watched him work out in the practice gym every night for hours just to see how hard he trained and what types of things separated him from others.
“Draymond taught me how to stand out by doing something on the court that’s not being done,” he added. “There’s always a spot for someone who plays with energy and gets the little things done.”
What’s more, Staten learned that being a professional athlete is more than just earning a paycheck, not that hard work has ever eluded him. But it was more about putting the ball through the hoop, making crisp passes and coming up with steals.
“They also showed me how to take care of my body and work smarter from the things they eat, to the amount of times they stretched and got into the cold tubs,” Staten said. “It was just an all-around great experience.”
While with the Warriors, Staten saw little action. He was, however, signed to the squad’s Developmental League team, the Santa Cruz Warriors, one of the premier teams in the league. There, he averaged 8.9 points and 3.7 assists until he was recently traded to the Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers D-League team.
While the ultimate goal for Staten is to make it to the NBA, the rookie point guard is happy to be in the D-League as he continues to learn the ropes and improve his game following a recent knee surgery prior to the season.
Just like with Curry and Co., the grind never stops.
“My dream is to play in the NBA so I felt that it meant I had more work to do,” Staten said of signing to the D-League. ” Coming off surgery was a small setback in camp but it made me more determined to make my dreams come true.”