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Local WVU player shares good advice

You have to love what’s happening to Derek Culver, the Youngstown kid who clearly was headed down the wrong road in life despite being gifted with physical attributes that would allow him to write his own ticket to be ultrasuccessful.

Culver now is a 6-foot-10, 225-pound power forward playing with the nation’s No. 25 college basketball team at West Virginia University. In past weeks, he got to play in front of a crowd in his hometown, and he acquitted himself very well, making seven of 10 field goals and his only free throw attempt for 15 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and had seven assists for the Mountaineers who have lost just once this season.

It was an amazing performance for a kid whose lack of discipline resulted in him being dismissed from his high school team at Warren G. Harding High School midway through his senior year because of poor academic performance. He spent a year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire to be able to qualify to attend college. But he had not yet learned and accepted the necessary discipline needed to succeed in a major college basketball program.

After being recruited to WVU, Coach Bobby Huggins had to suspend Culver indefinitely in November last year for violating team rules. That apparently shocked the promising, but problematic, player into reality. A month into his indefinite suspension, Huggins reinstated Culver.

Since then, he’s been focused on moving forward and has put his destructive days in the rear-view mirror.

Huggins is often viewed as a tough-love kind of guy and has molded many young men into basketball stars. He is one of only 10 coaches to have won more than 800 college games.

After the Mountaineers’ victory Saturday over a scrappy Youngstown State team coached by Huggins protege Jarrod Calhoun, Huggins expressed his admiration for Culver’s U-turn in life.

“Derek is like all of us,” the coach told this newspaper’s sportswriter John Vargo. “We all grow up at some point and time in our life. If we don’t, it’s an awful rough life. Derek is not late for practice, class, study hall or any of that stuff anymore.” He also said Culver “has done a great job in the classroom.”

But Culver’s story gets even better. He has not only grasped the value of discipline, but he’s willing to teach it. Vargo asked him what advice he would give to young people in Youngstown.

Lesson No. 1: Friends. It’s OK to say no to them.

Lesson No. 2: It’s all right to miss the parties. There are a lot of opportunities to get in trouble.

Lesson No. 3: It’s all right to not hang out every night, stay out late.

Lesson No. 4: Focus on you and what you want to do. It can be done.

These are lessons Culver regrets that he didn’t learn sooner. Now he wants to keep making strides and to be a role model for young people in Youngstown.

His coach kept tossing the praises his way.

“Derek has come a long, long way. I’m telling you. He’s come so far as a person, as a player, as a teammate. He’s come a long, long way.”

“If I keep working and showing positive examples to kids and to the city, I feel like they’re going to buy in,” the new Derek Culver said.

It was quite a homecoming for Culver this month. His mother, Sharon White, and the rest of his family who have stood by him through it all, can be justifiably proud.

editorial@tribtoday.com

SCRIPTURE

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

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