Derek Culver explains decision to forgo remaining eligibility and pursue the NBA

Gold and Blue Nation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A Led Zeppelin song comes to mind when thinking of the way Derek Culver’s WVU career ended. 

That saga certainly left fans dazed and confused.

Unlike teammate Deuce McBride, who is still pursuing the NBA Draft without an agent, Culver signed with an agent in late April, effectively forfeiting his remaining collegiate eligibility. He then denied that he was leaving WVU, and then walked that statement back. 

Two months later, Culver is still pursing pro basketball. He worked out for the Golden State Warriors Tuesday, and he’s making the most of the draft process. 

“I’ve never really been through a process like this before. It’s fun,” Culver said. “I’m learning.” 

The decision to leave WVU, though? That was a family matter, he said, and it was time. 

“That was something my family, we talked about for a little while,” Culver said. “We were weighing our options. I felt like it was just time for us to take that route.” 

Culver added that he did not consult any of his teammates before signing with an agent, though he does still talk to some of the members of the 2020-21 team that reached the NCAA Tournament. He also explained that head coach Bob Huggins is a big reason why he’s in a position to interact with NBA teams. 

“Coach Huggs, he really taught me a lot as a person, player, and just as a man in general” Culver said. “Everything has consequences.” 

That’s interesting phrasing from Culver, because it resembles something Huggins said earlier in the day. A few hours before Culver took the court in California, Huggins addressed reporters back here in the Mountain State, sharing his thoughts on Culver’s departure publicly for the first time. 

Everything has consequences, especially a decision to leave school early in pursuit of a pro career. Huggins has seen plenty of pursuits that don’t work out. 

“The saddest thing to me is, every summer, somebody comes back and says, ‘Huggs, I wish I would have listened,’” Huggins said. 

The longtime head coach of the Mountaineers said he always keeps the best interest of his players in mind. He gives his players advice accordingly. Agents, though, tend to paint a different picture — one that involves a big pay day.

“If you can imagine being down the road and making that kind of money, living that kind of life, it’s a very exciting thing for them,” Huggins said. “What’s not exciting is when it doesn’t work out.” 

But Culver didn’t leave WVU because of a dispute with Huggins. He certainly didn’t leave out of a desire to play a different position, even though some NBA teams consider him a stretch four. 

That’s a very different role than the one he predominantly played for the Mountaineers. 

“Coach Huggs, he always let me play, even though I was put down low as a five,” Culver said. “But that’s what I needed. At that time, that was my best attribute.” 

If anything, Culver said Huggins encouraged him to become more pro-ready during his time at WVU. The winner of 900 career contests taught the forward to work on his game “as a whole,” helping him gain a more clear perspective of what it would take to become a pro. 

Now that he has worked out with four NBA teams — the Cavaliers, Knicks, Timberwolves and Warriors — Culver has tried to prove that he can be a consistent shooter, and even make 3-pointers.

That was “weird” at first, he admits, but he thinks he’s getting the hang of it. 

“Being able to shoot the ball, pull the defense out a little bit more, it’s fun,” Culver said. “You have a little bit more to work with.” 

Currently, Culver is not projected as a draft pick. He said he doesn’t know what he’ll do on draft night, but he wants to spend it with his family. He may even watch the draft from his native Youngstown, Ohio, where he rose to basketball prominence despite a challenging childhood. 

If that’s how it happens, Culver’s draft day might feel less like a rock song and more like a poem — even if he isn’t selected. 

“To be honest with you, I don’t want to say I’m not supposed to be here, but coming from Youngstown, Ohio, there really ain’t too much going on,” Culver said. “For me to be sitting on this stage and talking to you guys with all these cameras, it’s just a blessing for me.” 

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