MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia is projected to do big things this season and part of that is because of Derek Culver.
Not because the Mountaineers lack talent. In fact, they are loaded with good players but because Culver is one of the most experienced on the roster.
Heading into his third year, the 6-foot-10, 255-pound forward is expected to be a leader on and off the court.
Culver and the other players that have been along for the ride have taken the newcomers like Isaiah Cottrell under their wings.
“That’s our culture,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “I think that our guys do that instinctively. It was much the same way a year ago with Oscar (Tshiebwe). They took Oscar under his wing. Miles McBride, I think, deserves a lot of credit with Oscar in that he explained things to Oscar in ways Oscar could understand. I think Derek is trying to do the same thing this year with Isaiah. No one told them to do that. That’s instinctively what our guys do because when they came in that’s what people did for them.”
However, Huggins has always said to be a leader they must do so on the court. Culver has always done that.
Last season the junior averaged 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. He had six double-doubles on the season.
This season could be the biggest of Culver’s collegiate career. The Youngstown, Ohio native is talented and there is no denying that but he has a lot of room to improve before heading to the NBA.
A big season could bring the scouts buzzing.
“He’s got great feet,” Huggins said. “Derek is one of the premiere athletes in all of college basketball. At 6-foot-10, the way he can ran, the way he can move his feet. I think Derek’s challenge has to be to grow and get better offensively. Defensively, we have never had a problem. Derek is not a shot blocker. He’s not Sagaba (Konate). He does a great job defensively by moving his feet, staying in front of people, using his length instead of some other guys we’ve had in the past could do, make plays, make up for their lack of some things by their ability to block shots. He’s not a shot blocker, never has been. Quite frankly we don’t need him to be. “
Another thing that Culver has in his corner is his speed.
“He is probably our second or third fastest guy on the team in terms of running the floor,” Huggins said.
The Warren G. Harding High School alum spent the last eight months trying to work on his craft.
“He is a premiere athlete and Derek needed to work at his skill level and he has responded,” Huggins said. “We’ve challenged him and he responded.”