Derek Culver showing strong improvement so far in his junior season

Gold and Blue Nation

Derek Culver finished the 2019-20 season ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in rebounds. 13 games into 2020-21, he sits at the top of the league in that category with an average of 10.8 per game. 

His improvement is quite apparent to his head coach.

“He rebounds the ball so well. He scores so much off of missed shots. If he has 18, probably 10 of them came off the glass,” Bob Huggins said in an exclusive interview for this week’s Bob Huggins Show. “He is as good a rebounder as there is in America.”

Culver is No. 14 in the nation in rebounds per game. Fardaws Aimaq from Utah Valley leads with the nation with an average of 15.2. There have been four games this season in which Culver has pulled down 15 or more rebounds, including a season-high 19 at Oklahoma State. 

DC has reached double figure rebounds in all but five games this season and there have only been three contests in which he hasn’t finished with double-digits in scoring. His sophomore season, he racked up a total of six double-doubles. He currently has seven through 13 games.

“His skill level is so much better. He can make a 15-footer, but he can score it around the basket with either hand. When he puts those big wide shoulders on you, it’s hard to get to the ball.” Huggins said. “Up until recently, he’s been shooting it pretty good at the free throw line.”

Culver’s aggressiveness under the basket hasn’t just paid off in more rebounds, his scoring average (13.8) has also increased in his junior campaign. 

“He’s a willing passer and he’s a good passer when he stays with the fundamentals. When he gets to dribbling it and trying to make a play that isn’t there, that’s when everybody gets in trouble. Whoever does that gets in trouble,” Huggins said.

The big man is shooting 55 percent from the charity stripe and 48.3 percent from the floor, which is good for No. 4 in the league.

Since Oscar Tshiebwe’s departure from the program Culver saw his worst performance of the year followed by two of his best. He only tallied two points and six rebounds in a loss at Oklahoma. Against Oklahoma State, it was 22 points and 19 boards for him. In a narrow loss to Texas, DC put up 14 and 16 respectively.

“I think Derek is going to get a lot more attention because he’s going to be isolated a good bit. That’s going to give our opponents, and the fans, an idea of his skill level,” associate head coach Larry Harrison said. “He’s going to really step up, and he has stepped up his game.”

Before that game against the Longhorns, Culver was spending a good bit of time in the training room dealing with back and knee issues. Coach Huggins said despite the forward’s double-double in that game, you could tell he was beat up because he just wasn’t playing like his usual self.

“I think he would have been a lot better. If you noticed, he wasn’t catching the ball in the paint. He was off the paint so much. That’s because he gets tired of people pushing on him like they are trying to push a truck up a hill,” Huggins said. “I think his production would have been a lot better.”

With the current pause of team activities due to COVID-19 issues, Culver has some time for rest and recovery. If he is racking up double-doubles when he isn’t 100 percent, then it should be fun to watch what he can accomplish when operating at full strength. 

Make sure to tune in this weekend to a brand new episode of the Bob Huggins Show to listen to the full interviews with Coach Huggins and Coach Harrison on the current state of the program.

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