Column: Culver’s Decision Not Necessarily A Bad One

West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) is sandwiched by Kansas State's Antonio Gordon (11) and Kaosi Ezeagu (right) (Scott Weaver photo)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Personally, I wish every college athlete would redshirt as a freshman, then play four more seasons with the program with which they originally signed, never giving thought to transferring or turning pro before their NCAA eligibility is exhausted. Then after that, I wish they would all go on to find fame and fortune.

Mountaineer junior forward Derek Culver made a decision recently that from a selfish standpoint I wish he hadn’t. The 6-foot-10, 255-pound native of Youngstown, Ohio, announced Monday that he was forgoing the remainder of his college eligibility and was going to pursue a professional basketball career.

While at WVU, Culver wasn’t always artistic, but he was a first-team all-Big 12 honoree this past season who averaged 14.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He completed his three years with the  Mountaineers 11th in school history in career double-doubles (27) and 14th in career rebounds (799), while also scoring 1,036 points.

His offensive skills may have seemed crude at time, but he was the focus of every opponent’s defense, constantly drawing double teams whenever he touched the ball in the post. That may have created some tough defensive walls for Culver to score over or around, but it also allowed the Mountaineers’ outside snipers room to operate.

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West Virginia was better off for Culver’s presence the past three seasons, and it would have been nice for the Mountaineers if he stayed in Morgantown for a fourth. But individuals are allowed to take the path of their choosing – stay, transfer, pro, whatever. Those who demand anything other than freewill are pressing their own selfish terms on another, or I won’t do that … on Culver or transfers like Emmitt Matthews or Jordan McCabe.

Each has a right to do what they want, and in Culver’s situation, it may not be a bad decision for his personal opportunities. Obviously Derek isn’t a basketball player who can knock down 20-foot jumpers with consistency, and another year or even two in college wouldn’t have changed that.

Very few NBA mock drafts have Culver listed anywhere in the two rounds, so he’s obviously got an uphill battle to make it to the highest level of pro basketball. That doesn’t mean he can’t make it, though, or earn a nice living playing at another level, because have the combination of size (6-foot-10, 255 pounds) and athleticism that few humans have.

Culver’s ability to carve out a spot for himself in professional basketball – be it NBA, G-League or overseas – is going to be determined on the things he does well – rebounding and defending others in the open floor – not by what he doesn’t do well – scoring the ball.

West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) grabs a rebound against TCU (Photo/ Gregg Ellman)

There is room in pro basketball for players who are willing to accept that exact role. Take the NBA for example. Admittedly everyone recognizes the league’s tops scorers, the one-name guys like LeBron, Steph and Giannis. But there are plenty of players who thrive at rebounding but have limited offensive ability. Those guys can earn a handsome paycheck as well. Of the top five rebounders in the NBA this season, none also are among the top 30 scorers. And between them, they make an average of $13.3 million per year. Tristan Thompson is the poster child. He has put together a 10-year NBA career that has earned him more than $106 million while averaging fewer than 10 points a game because he can rebound (8.7) and defend at a high level.

That’s who Culver should emulate. He has the size and athleticism to do just that, and another year at WVU wouldn’t have changed his skill set.

I’ll miss Derek because he did help the Mountaineers win, and he also was an intelligent (three years Academic All-Big 12) and entertaining person to deal with.

Because of that, I selfishly wish he had stayed around West Virginia for another year, but I don’t always get my wishes.

After all, I also wish my teenage daughter never argued with me, I wish t-bone steaks cost a dollar a pound, and I wish the Mountaineers never lost an athletic contest. But somethings are just wishes of fancy, not reality.

For Derek, good luck following your wishes, but the Mountaineers will miss you.

 

Home Page forums Column: Culver’s Decision Not Necessarily A Bad One

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  • #145526

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Personally, I wish every college athlete would redshirt as a freshman, then play four more seasons with the program with which the
    [See the full post at: Column: Culver’s Decision Not Necessarily A Bad One]

    #145530

    “But individuals are allowed to take the path of their choosing – stay, transfer, pro, whatever. Those who demand anything other than freewill are pressing their own selfish terms on another”

    I’ve seen a lot of posters calling these young men entitled (not Culver specifically) for making their choices,  while missing the irony of the statement.   I appreciate this quote.  I hope Culver is able to carve out that path.  I do wish he were coming back.

    #145531

    Nice essay, Greg, with some thoughtful, gentle calling out of folks who need it

    #145538

    Greg, one of your best columns ever. Maybe because I agree with every word. Derek gave up his body for my alma mater and has the bruises and bumps to prove it. I wish him well in the NBA and in life. With his all-academic credentials he should have his WVU degree to fall back on  when his athletic career ends, as all do. Thanks, Derek, for all you did to make me and my alma mater feel good.

    #145540

    Good column.  FWIW I think he made the right decision.  I don’t think another season of college ball would significantly help him financially.  I think that with his body, he can be a contributor in the NBA and, I hope, make some big bucks.

    Of course, people have to make the decisions that they think are in their best interests.  But I think that if the kind of turnover from year to year that that we are witnessing continues, it’s going to hurt college basketball.  Major college BB will truly become merely a farm system for the professional teams here and overseas.

    It’s hard to form a team when you don’t know who is going to be on your team next year.  It’s hard to figure out whom to recruit when you don’t know what your roster is likely to be.  One of the joys of college ball for me has been watching players grow and develop over time.  Jevon Carter and Damian Owens come to mind, but there are many, many others.  The days of watching a player develop his skills over four years and become a team leader are pretty much over with.  Maybe that’s good for the players (I’m not so sure), but it’s definitely not good for the game.  Without veterans on your team, who is your team leader?  Last year we didn’t have one, and I doubt if we have one this year either because guys don’t stick around long enough to develop leadership skills–skills that will help them long after their basketball days are over.

    #145541

    Immediate eligibility after transferring is a mixed bag. Players should have right to move the same as those of us still working (not me, obviously, as a 1996 retirees). But it makes it tough for coaches to have continuity even though the transfers out and transfers in often even out. It takes time, though, to develop team chemistry. Walkaways harm that chemistry. As usual, I’ll cheer for those who show up in the season opener.

    #145548

    WVU basketball is an elite program with professional talent coming in all of the time.  Whether the student athletes pursue 4-5 years to get their degree or opt to move on to a professional career is very much the individual’s goal, especially with the talent we have coming in now.  If they have achieved enough in the college game to earn a contract to play professional basketball, well most of these athletes probably have that as the top goal along with a degree.

    I love to dream of a senior laden NBA squad that comes back for national titles, but that’s a dream from a fan perspective.

    We need to expect this and be proud of how many professional basketball players come out of WVU.  Of course we don’t want to lose the talent that may bring WVU national championship caliber teams, but that’s the way it is now.

    We have an incredibly talented young crop of student athletes for 2021-2022 and every top program in the country is managing the same challenges.

    #145554

    Nice column Greg

    #145555

    I am still and have always been in the camp that guys will in the long run be much better off staying in school and getting a degree…. or masters. COVID gives guys that extra year to get a masters.

    Some say they can always come back and complete a degree or masters, but reality says that many don’t get their degree and few get a masters. 5+ years overseas money is nice. 40 more years with masters degree on the resume is golden.

    NBA money aside, how many guys actually make it? How many get out of the GLeague? Lots to think about.

    Good luck to Derek. Hope he made the best life decision and didn’t allow agents in his ear make that decision for him.

    #145587

    I agree that players should be allowed to turn pro whenever they wish. But, I also believe earning money playing sport is limited in years.

    For those truly blessed to make the big bucks, I think they should take advantage of their opportunities whenever they become available, ie. Alexander.

    But, for those players that can be easily replaced on the NBA, NFL, or MLB rosters, I believe that it’s in their best interest to graduate. There’s life after sports.

    I may end up wrong, because I’m uncertain of his potential in the NBA, but IMO, he would have been better served getting his degree before putting his name into the draft. It would not have hurt his draft status, and it may have helped.

    #145589

    The Dad in me agrees with Butler and Eugene.  Unless you have truly elite talent (we haven’t had such a player since Jerry West) you need to get your degree.  And if you have the chance to pick up an advanced degree while playing ball, get it.  But no one pays any attention to old men.  Still one needs to be careful that one’s freedom to choose doesn’t translate into the freedom to lose.

    #145590

    Good points, Butlereer. Nothing beats a college education in the right areas of need in America. I know my WVU Journal education brought me a 43-year newspaper career in 3 states — West Virginia, Ohio and Florida — and a retirement of 25 years (so far) of a comfortable financial situation, seeing the world in 56 countries and 44 states and 30 winters of up to 4 months in Florida. That’s why I contribute to my alma mater every year. It’s my “thank you.” With Culver’s academic record I think his WVU degree may be a valuable backup plan. Pro success is difficult. But a WVU major in the right areas lasts a lifetime. As you have pointed out, Butlereer.

    #145591

    This “me first” “Woke” generation doesn’t listen to anybody older than 40.  …….  And it’s all our fault for raising our kids this way.  In fact, even us old farts never listened to our parents.  That has been going on for the last 10,000 generations.

    I just hope that Derek has made the best decision and wasn’t talked into being one of the first 3 clients of this new agency because they blew smoke up his arse.  Opting to skip the last 2 years of eligibility in the hopes of an NBA future when he’s not on any of the mock draft lists for either round is a leap of faith.

    #145594

    Hate to see you go DC, God bless you and may He be a big part of your future.

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Home Page forums Column: Culver’s Decision Not Necessarily A Bad One

Home Page forums Column: Culver’s Decision Not Necessarily A Bad One