West Virgina Iowa St Basketball

WVU’s Derek Culver drives to the basket against Iowa State last year.

West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins is a member of the NCAA’s rules committee for the sport. At Wednesday’s Big 12 media day in Kansas City, Missouri, it was announced that one of the points of emphasis for officials this season will be on cleaning up post play.

Huggins was not exactly in love with what is being proposed for the referees.

“How are you going to clean up post play when you’ve got 6-foot-10, 270-pound guys leaning on each other?” Huggins asked during his time on the podium at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. “There is going to be contact.”

Contact is something WVU sophomore forward Derek Culver is hoping to see more of in the post this season. There were times during his freshman season when Culver, listed at 6-10 and 255 pounds, would become visibly frustrated with excessive amounts of contact.

This season, he told Big 12 Now, he thinks he is better equipped to play the way that makes him the most successful.

“I can play aggressive at times and I can kind of, like, try to shy away,” Culver said in an interview with the league’s ESPN-affiliated streaming service Wednesday. “The times I shy away from making contact with players, I don’t really get into my game like I want to. That mentality kind of helps me when I’m playing in the post.”

Culver found fast success upon his arrival on the Big 12 scene last season. In conference play, Culver lead all players with 10.9 rebounds per game and ranked No. 12 in the league with 12.5 points per game.

Sometimes teams would try to rattle the freshman. In a blowout loss at Texas Tech, it became clear Culver was going to have to be a focal point for the Mountaineers on offense. Culver attempted 24 foul shots and made 15 of them — both individual highs for a Big 12 player last season.

“Derek is not going to change how he plays,” Huggins said. “That’s Derek. That’s his identity. [Playing so much as a freshman] has given him some confidence, but other than that I’m not sure what it would have done for him.”

Culver famously was suspended after WVU’s first game last year and it was December before he returned to the team. The suspension came from Huggins for a violation of team rules, which turned out to be, at least in part, a pattern of Culver arriving late for things — practice and class, for example.

The Youngstown, Ohio native has never backed away from owning the mistakes he made early last season or using them to help himself become a better player. Without being asked specifically about the suspension, Culver used it as an example when asked about Huggins’ personalty away from the sidelines and cameras.

“Last year I didn’t get to play the beginning of my freshman year due to off-the-court issues — stuff I had to figure out and teach myself ‘man’ things,” Culver said. “Huggs, he really helped me other than just basketball. By him sitting me down and teaching me life lessons like, ‘This is what you’re going to have to do, and if you say you’re going to do it, you have to be committed.’ That really showed me a lot. That was outside of basketball and that’s how I know Huggs really, truly cares for me as a person.”

Culver agreed with his coach that his confidence is up after a standout freshman season for the Mountaineers, and now he wants to use that to become a more consistent player as West Virginia aims for a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season.

“Last year I used to rush my shots,” Culver said. “I used to never really get into my shots. I never got the shots I wanted, I took the shots that were given to me. This year, I can get the ball in the post, three-quarters, look to see what I have and if I don’t have anything I’m able to do what I have to do in the post. If they kick down on me, I believe I’m a good enough passer to kick it out to my guards to get an open 3.”


West Virginia’s coach gave the media one sentence when asked for an introduction Wednesday in Kansas City.

“We’re ready to get started, and that’s all I’ve got to say about it,” Huggins said.

When it was time for questions, Huggins received just two — one on Culver and another on the new emphasis on cleaning up post play.

Curtis Shaw, the Big 12’s coordinator of officials, gave a presentation earlier in the day detailing some points of emphasis for league officials this season, including the new rules in the post. Shaw said physicality — at least the kind that can physically displace a player — has no place in the game. Huggins agreed.

“I think the thing that needs to be called is if they’re displaced — you shouldn’t be allowed to do that. Obviously, if it affects their shot you shouldn’t be allowed to do that, but there is going to be contact. This thing that we’re going to have a no-contact sport, those people have never played our game. You’ve got 10 big, strong fast guys in a confined area. There is going to be some contact.”

Still, Huggins was not entirely sold on what Shaw had to say.

“Curt was a guard,” Huggins joked. “[He] kind of stood out there away from the fray.”

Contact Tom Bragg at tom.bragg@wvgazettemail.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports. Read Tom’s WVU sports blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/wvu/