Most Valuable Returning Player in the Big 12?
Derek Culver, the 6’10 255 pound Sophomore, was a dominant force as a Freshman last year. Culver, a double-double machine, averaged 11.5 and 9.9 rebounds per game and will almost certainly improve on those numbers next year. It appeared at times that he could not be kept off the offensive glass and his best days are in the future.
Culver was a 2nd team Big 12 player last year. The first team consisted of Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech (who is NBA bound), Dedic Lawson of Kansas (also declared), Barry Brown of Kansas State (graduated), Mariol Shayok of Iowa State (graduated) and Kansas State’s Dean Wade, who also graduated.
Talen Horton-Tucker, the 6’4 guard Iowa State Cyclone, appears to coveted by several NBA teams and will likely not return. Jaxson Hayes, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, is expected to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
Culver, with several of the league’s top players moving on, is now poised to be one of top returning players in the league, if not the very best. Some other likely contenders for Player of the Year in the Big 12 include:
Desmond Bane, a 6-5 TCU Senior guard, tested the waters of the NBA but ultimately decided to return to the Horned Frogs. Bane averaged 15.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Davide Moretti, a 6’2 Junior guard, will return to Texas Tech next year. He averaged 11.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the NCAA Championship runner-up Red Raiders.
Lindell Wigginton, an Iowa State Sophomore guard, is the real name to watch. Wigginton averaged 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a Freshman. He is a big, long, athletic point guard and he will likely be the star player for Iowa State this year.
Brady Manek, the Oklahoma Sooners Sophomore forward, showed flashes of brilliance, particularly in the Coliseum against the Mountaineers where he scored his career-high 22 points. He averaged 12.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season.
Kansas has several options that could step up and lead the Jayhawks this year. Udoka Azubuike, the 7’1 Senior Center, could dominate if he stays healthy.
This brings us to Derek Culver, West Virginia’s man-child who, despite missing the first 10 games of the season due to disciplinary reasons, proved to be one of the best interior players in the Big 12 last year. Bob Huggins, in an interview with WV MetroNews last season, said of Culver: “Derek doesn’t have a clue. It’s amazing he gets done what he gets done, because he doesn’t have a clue. If he will listen and put the time in and work at, he will be good.”
In other words, Derek Culver was relying on pure natural ability and athleticism last year. With a year behind him, a summer in the weight room, and starting the season with the rest of the team next year, his potential is limitless. Combining with newcomer Oscar Tshiebwe to form the best interior combo in the Big 12 and perhaps the country, Culver has a real opportunity to become the Big 12’s Player of the Year in 2019-2020.