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Mountaineers in the Pros

WVU’s Derek Culver Working to Transform His Game to Fit into the NBA

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Saturday, Feb., 20, 2021. (Stephen Spillman)

For his entire college career, former West Virginia center Derek Culver fit the mold of a traditional big man. He grabbed rebounds, played tough defense and scored nearly all of his points out of the post. As he pursues his dream of playing in the NBA, however, he knows his game must evolve.

“To be able to transition my game to the next level, to be able to play and maintain playing at the next level, I felt like I had to expand my game a little bit by putting it on the floor a little bit more and shooting elbow shots,” Culver told reporters following a workout with the Golden State Warriors Tuesday afternoon.

Culver, a would-be rising senior, entered his name into the NBA Draft process earlier this offseason, initially leaving the door open for a potential return to WVU. At the end of April, however, he decided to forgo his college eligibility by signing with an agent and fully pursue his pro prospects.

“That was something my family talked about for a while,” Culver said. “We were weighing our options and I just felt it was time for us to take that route. Me and my family talked, we deliberated for a long time and we ended up coming to the conclusion of doing that.”

A three-year starter, Culver put together a standout college career with the Mountaineers. He finished with 1,036 career points and 799 career rebounds and was thrice named to an All-Big 12 team. He averaged a career-high 14.3 points per game last season to go with 9.4 rebounds per game and a career-best 47.8% shooting percentage.

Culver said he enjoyed playing in the post at WVU and the advice to grow his game towards the perimeter came from coach Bob Huggins.

“He told me I’m going to be able to shoot the ball because there’s not too many traditional power forwards in the game anymore,” Culver said. “It wasn’t like I left school because I had to play down low. I always knew I played down low, that was my bread and butter.”

The Warriors were the fourth NBA team Culver has worked out for so far in the process with the other three being the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers. Having grown up in Youngstown, Ohio, Culver said it is hard to believe he has made it this far in his basketball career.

“I’ve never really been through a process like this before,” Culver said. “It’s fun, all-in-all, I’m having a hell of an experience. I’m just going to take it day by day.”

The NBA Draft will be held on July 29 in New York City. Culver said he plans to spend the day with family and friends and will always look back fondly on his time in Morgantown.

“I grew up a lot at West Virginia,” Culver said. “And Coach Huggs really taught me a lot as a person, player and as a man in general.”

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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