Dreams will become reality tonight for West Virginia’s Miles McBride and the other 59 NBA Draft selections. Ahead of the main event, we had to get some final insight from WVU Hall of Famer and Gold and Blue Nation basketball analyst Warren Baker.
What better place to start than with the burning question: will Deuce be a first-round selection?
“Yes, I think he is. I hope so. Even if he doesn’t go in the first round, I think it will be right at the beginning of the second,” Baker said.
Once the 2020-21 WVU hoops season ended, most outlets had McBride tabbed as a second-round pick. Through the NBA Combine and pre-draft workouts with numerous teams, McBride’s stock started climbing. Heading into Thursday, he is now projected to come off the board late in the opening round. Baker believes there is one key factor that has allowed McBride to climb the draft boards.
“His intensity. Defensively, it’s never been a question about that, but his offensive game has really stepped up. I think the pros really look at that full body of work,” Baker said. “They knew defensively he was good and they just liked the way he has the drive to succeed. I think that’s the thing that is going to really help him.”
That same intensity that Bake believes will benefit Deuce at the next level is also what he thinks could be a downfall for Culver as he pursues a professional career.
“He has a lack of intensity. There were games where Derek looked like the best center in the league, then next you wonder if he even got on the bus to go to the game, he just wasn’t there,” Baker said. “A few other things — he can not stretch the defense. Most of your big guys, 6’10-6’11 like Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis, those guys can step out and hit threes. Derek’s range ends at about 15 feet. I think that is something that would hurt him. And then his first step if he had to drive. If he got the ball at the top of the key, could he drive and create something? I’m not sure Derek could do that. I think he will have a good pro career overseas. I can’t see it really, really happening in the NBA.”
Another key factor in the transition from the collegiate to the professional level is maturity. This is also an area that Baker sees differences between McBride and Culver.
“Deuce is a very intelligent young man and processes things so well. No one wants Deuce to make the pros anymore than I do, but if he doesn’t for some reason, he is going to be successful. He’s able to adjust to things,” Baker said. “Derek’s thing is he just made some bad decisions and didn’t listen to the coaches the way he should have. I think Deuce has absorbed all of that and more and is just a very mature young man.”
McBride led the Mountaineers in more than just scoring last season. His leadership on and off the court is something that furthered his impact on the Mountaineer basketball program. He also left behind some great memories. The shrug vs. Ohio State, the Texas Tech game-winning sequence, hitting that last shot against Baylor to close the 2020 regular season and of course, coming out of retirement at the Gold-Blue spring game a few months ago. Bake picked two of those moments as his favorite Deuce McBride memory.
“Obviously, the shot he hit to win the game against Texas Tech was huge,” Baker said. “Going back, I had kind of forgotten this until I started looking over some things — he scored 21 points against Ohio State as a freshman when they were No. 2 in the country. That’s huge for a young kid to step up on a situation like that.”
Regardless of what happens tonight at 8 p.m. ET when the first round of the NBA Draft gets underway, the former Mountaineer hooper wants to offer his advice to those collegiate athletes taking the next step in their basketball careers.
“Listen to people that have been there. Listen to someone like Bob Huggins who has had numerous, numerous guys go to the pros. Bob told me once there are so many guys that have come back and said I wish I would have listened to you,” Baker said. “So I think taking advice from people who are in the know.”