MORGANTOWN — Bob Huggins has some bad news for anyone counting on a sophomore slump from West Virginia University forward Derek Culver this season.
Culver was very good as a freshman for the Mountaineers last season, and now Huggins said he’s better — not just at one or two things, but overall.
“He’s gotten better at everything,” Huggins said Tuesday during a break in WVU’s preseason practice. “Obviously I think we had to cut down on his turnovers, and I think of all the people he’s probably made the most progress with that.”
The big man from Youngstown, Ohio, listed at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds, played in 26 games for West Virginia last season after sitting out most of the first semester due to a Huggins-mandated suspension for violating team rules. As a freshman, Culver averaged 11.5 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor on his way to being named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team unanimously.
Culver, clearly, is still a work in progress as well. Huggins said getting him to relax around the basket will be a key to Culver taking the next step in his development. Pairing him with freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe, a McDonald’s All-American last season, and senior forward Logan Routt on the block should make West Virginia a force inside, especially if Culver can continue his growth as a player.
“We’ve just got to get him to slow down,” Huggins said. “They catch it in the post and you’ve got all those arms and legs flailing at you, and you just have a tendency to go too fast. Post guys are looking everywhere but at the rim, and I’ve had really, really good ones that we’ve had to spend a lot of time with because if you can see where you’re shooting it, that helps. I think that’s something all three of those guys need to better at.”
OSCAR NO SLOUCH
As good as Tshiebwe was in high school, college basketball — especially at the level he’ll be playing on with West Virginia this season — is a pretty big leap from the small school division in Pennsylvania.
Tshiebwe shined as a prep player, but the level of competition was nothing like what he’ll see in the Big 12 and on WVU’s non-conference schedule. Huggins acknowledged that the star recruit has already expereinced some growing pains as it relates to getting used to college basketball, but also said he remains pleased with Tshiebwe’s attitude so far since he has been on campus.
“I think the biggest advantage Oscar has over most freshman is he plays so hard,” Huggins said. “He’s lost some days, like a lot of them are, and he’s got catching up to do with the speed of the game and I think the skill level of the guys he’s playing against, obviously, is a lot better. It’s going to take some time, but the good thing is he’s willing. He’s willing to listen. He’s willing to work and he’s very coachable.”