Culver ready to get back to work for sophomore campaign
To say Texas Tech went on a magical run this spring would be a total duh statement. The Red Raiders had their greatest season in two decades on the court, fueled by a unique mix of veteran leadership and young, upstart talent.
Prime among that talent was obviously freshman standout Jarrett Culver, who finished third on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game, second on the team in rebounding with 4.8 per contest, and led the team in made threes with 55.
The Lubbock native was a vital cog in Tech's special season, something he won't ever forget. In particular, the postseason run to the first Elite Eight in program history really sticks out to Culver.
"I'd say just the whole tournament all together," he said. "That's something you dream about since you're a kid to just be in that position, and being one of the eight last teams to play in the country was just unbelievable, so I feel like it was blessing to be in that position."
And while he'll always look back fondly on what happened over the last few months, there's no time to get caught up in reminiscing for Culver. He and this team's path towards the 2018-19 season has already begun, and the time they put in - or don't - from now until October will determine their success or failure.
"It's just back to work. Every day you have to get back to work, focus on this season coming up and the offseason. It's just about trying to get better every day, be the best player you can be for your team, so I'm just focused on that right now."
But what many might not remember is that Culver didn't get a full offseason headed into his freshman season. He was rehabbing a shoulder injury suffered in high school and had to watch from the bench at times while his team was preparing over the summer. Looking back on it, the versatile guard wouldn't have it any other way.
It prepared him mentally for what would come.
"Coming in my first year, I was hurt, so I kind of got to see the game a lot from the sidelines. It actually taught me a lot, and when I came in, I just told myself I'm going to play as hard as I can every possession. I don't think anything has changed from last year to this year. I'm going to still try to play hard and do the best for my team."
But Culver wasn't the only freshman stud. Zhaire Smith was just as important of a piece for the team's success this season, and Smith's efforts have rewarded him with an opportunity to test the NBA Draft waters.
Culver is thrilled for a guy who's both his roommate and one of his best friends, and whatever Smith decides to do, Culver is behind him 100 percent.
"I know we're all happy for Zhaire. We're all supporting him. Whatever he makes for his decision, we're going to support him in whatever he does. To be where he's at is a blessing for him, and we're all happy for him."
"Me and him, we work every day. We go to work with each other. We workout every day with each other. It's all fun, and the position he's in is just a different position than I'm in. It's just different timing and stuff like that, and we're just all happy for him."
And while Zhaire's future with the team remains in flux, there are other new players in the mix that will be a part of Texas Tech basketball moving forward. One of those is new signee and St. John's grad transfer forward Tariq Owens.
Culver got to spend some time around Owens on his visit last weekend, and he was excited to see the big man sign with the Red Raiders this week.
"I feel like he's a great player. He's athletic, and getting to hang out with him over the weekend was cool. He committed (and signed) here, and I'm excited to play with him."
Another new player in the fold that's already been on campus is Missouri transfer guard C.J. Roberts. Culver's seen him work this spring while sitting out and is eager to get him on the floor.
"He's an athletic, quick guard. He goes to work every day like just like us other guys, so I feel like he's going to be a nice piece for us next year."
Regardless of who the players are that make up the roster, Culver knows it's about taking steps forward towards next season. He's striving to improve every day, and that has to be the goal of everyone on the staff and team to get where they want to go.
"Everybody get better. Coaches can coach better, and players can play better, so I just feel like if everybody can give one percent better, that makes our team a lot better. So it's just about working hard every day, doing the best that we can for each other, and that will take us a long way."
Guys who won't be a part of that journey moving forward are Keenan Evans, Justin Gray, Zach Smith, Niem Stevenson, and Tommy Hamilton. The five seniors are gone, and with that, it's now time for Culver and others to step up and be the leadership on this basketball team.
Culver admits that it's a bit strange not having those guys around anymore, but he's already moved on to making sure this group builds chemistry and grows together like last year's team did.
"It is a weird feeling, but we've just all got to get used to each other. Everybody who's coming in, we've just got to build new bonds and relationships to have what we had last year."