At the beginning of 2018-19 Mountaineer basketball season, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins had to suspend his star freshman forward Derek Culver for violation of team rules. He didn’t make his regular season debut until he fulfilled a contract setup by Huggins.
Once Culver stuck to the agreement, the 6-10 big man made his presence known in the paint. In his second collegiate game, he put up a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) against Lehigh and followed it up with 12 points and eight rebounds in an upset win over No. 11 Texas Tech.
Derek continued to improve throughout the season and despite putting up 23 points and 12 rebounds in the second meeting with Texas Tech on the road, another 22 points and 21 rebounds against TCU and a 16 and 21 versus Oklahoma State, Huggins continued to say he didn’t know what he was doing. Culver finished the year nearly averaging a double-double with 11.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
As the Mountaineers are gearing up for their upcoming three-game trip to Spain, there is another freshman starting his collegiate career in Morgantown that fans are anticipating.
2019 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe will be making his debut and Huggins finds himself uttering those same words again.
“Oscar plays so hard, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet because this is only his second or third day.” Explained Huggins. “He plays so hard – runs so hard – he’s so long. He gets the balls that other people can’t get to and its been good for him. Its been good for him to play against Derek everyday and really play against Logan (Routt) every day. You don’t get that every day. You don’t get that in high school. He’s been really good. He can rebound that ball and really runs. Really, really runs.”
With a limited number of big men on the roster, you start to wonder, will Culver and Oscar be on the floor together? On the outside looking in, they both look like they will play at the five-spot.
“Oh, they’re going to play together.” Stated Huggins. “We’ve run some triangle things. We’ve run a lot of triangle stuff in the past. Those guys, once they learn what they are doing, should be pretty good in triangle.”
Two bug guys sitting at 6-10 (Culver) and 6-9 (Tshiebwe) could potentially be the best frontcourt duo in the country and what does Huggins envision when those two are on the floor together?
“A lot of rebounds.” Said Huggs. “I think we can go back to dominating the glass like we did at one time.”
“I think probably the last time we were able to play two bigs like that was Kenyon (Martin) and Jermain Tate. They were both 6-9 and that worked out really well for us.”
In case you were wondering, that reference goes back to Huggins Cincinnati days, when he had the No. 1 team in the country and was the No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament before the nations best player, Kenyon Martin, broke his leg and ended a chance at a National Championship.