MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The mercurial college basketball career of Derek Culver ended the way it started … in turmoil.
When he left high school, he was West Virginia bound, but opted instead to spend a year in prep school.
If it was to give him time to mature, to get out in the world, it did not work, for his college career began with Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins suspending him for the first semester.
Nothing major. Little stuff, it was, like getting to practice on time, making study hall, “yes, sir” and “no, sir” kind of things.
See he was big, an athlete and privileged. He was also intelligent, smarter than the kids he grew up with in a tough neighborhood in Youngstown, which Huggins recognized and had to address.
“He had always been able to work his way out of things. When I suspended him the first semester of his freshman year he was like ‘Holy cow, this guy is for real,’” Huggins said on Tuesday.
That came 15 or so hours after Culver’s WVU career reached its messy end.
Huggins swears that as of 9:30 p.m. the previous night Culver had told him he was coming back to WVU next year.
However, by then, president Cervando Tejeda of Athletes Sports Management, a sports agency that is not certified by the NCAA, had announced that it has signed its first three basketball clients and Culver was among them. Not being certified meant that Culver did not, like teammates Deuce McBride, Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman, who have requested evaluations from the NBA underclassmen advisory group, have an option to return to school.
At that point it seemed pretty cut and dried. Culver had signed with an agent and was leaving, despite Huggins denials.
See Culver, who is in California working on his game before the NBA draft, went onto his Instagram story and called the report that broke in 247Sports “false news” and said he hadn’t signed with an agent.
And then, as it began to trend on social media, Culver’s original Instagram story disappeared, much as he is going to do from the Mountaineer program, soon to be replaced by a long explanation of what was going on.
“I released a statement earlier today that I would now like to clarify,” he wrote. “Some on social media have stated that I have left school. In the heat of the moment, I responded on social media to refute those claims.
“I have taken stock of my college experience and am now undergoing the difficult decision to plan my future. I have elected to forgo my senior year and currently explore my professional options, which was a difficult decision that I did not take lightly.
“It is a long process for an athlete to turn professional. For those blessed with the opportunity to play as scholarship athletes, it is difficult to leave our adoptive college family. I tried to articulate earlier that I had not officially announced my intentions publicly to leave school and that reports of me doing so were unconfirmed.”
And then he offered up the reason he offered up a statement that was not true.
“I refuted those claims as I felt it unfair for those who have supported me over the years to hear it from me directly,” he wrote.
In other words, the agent had not cleared releasing the information with Culver.
What’s more, it seems Culver wasn’t even sure that what he had signed with them was a contract, but the agent offered to release it publicly and to hold Culver to it.
And so it goes in the Neverland, where everyone dreams of playing in the NBA but where most of those dreams evaporate into a career in some far-off land.
That well may be the fate that is awaiting Culver, who his agent, Tejeda, calls one of the best stretch four players in college basketball, telling 247Sports that he thinks Culver will be a stretch 4 in the NBA
“He’s making unbelievable progress with his jump shot and his ability to shoot the ball and to pick and pop. The progress he’s making in Los Angeles on his jump shot, the NBA teams will be able to see that”
The entire state of West Virginia is waiting for that to happen, but remember an agent’s job is to make his prospect look good and to drive up the asking price, so this becomes a buyer beware situation.
Huggins doesn’t believe Culver should have left. He exits with 1,039 points and 799 rebounds.
“Here’s what I don’t get,” Huggins said. “I told Devin Williams [when he left early] that he had a chance to be the fifth guy in WVU history to score 1,000 points and get 1,000 rebounds. Just him and Jerry West, Lloyd Sharrar, Kevin Williams and Warren Baker. That meant nothing to him.
“I told Derek, ‘Don’t do what Devin did. Leave your name here, leave your mark here. It will help you so much down the road.’”
It didn’t mean anything to Derek Culver, either.