West Virginia Sports

WVU’s Derek Culver signs with agent, will enter NBA draft

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — All-Big 12 forward Derek Culver has decided to skip his senior season at West Virginia to enter the NBA draft.
Culver announced Monday night on Instagram that he has signed with an agent.
Culver was named to the all-Big 12 first team as a junior. The 6-foot-10 Culver was second on the Mountaineers with a scoring average of 14.3 and led the Big 12 with 9.4 rebounds per game. He had 11 double-doubles this past season, but none over his final seven games.
West Virginia’s roster has seen an extensive makeover since the Mountaineers lost to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to finish the season 19-10.
Coach Bob Huggins this month announced the signings of DePaul forward Pauly Paulicap, Florida International forward Dimon Carrigan, and Old Dominion guard Malik Curry as graduate transfers.
West Virginia forward Emmitt Matthews transferred to Washington, while guard Jordan McCabe transferred to UNLV. Guards Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil and Miles McBride have announced they will enter the NBA draft process and leave open the option of returning to school.
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Big 12 spring sees unexpected changes at Texas and Kansas

When Texas finished with consecutive lopsided victories last December, it seemed that coach Tom Herman would be back for a fifth season despite again falling short of a Big 12 title. There was no reason to think Les Miles would be gone from Kansas, even after a winless second season.
Yet, the Longhorns and Jayhawks both went through spring practice with different coaches.
Four days after Texas won the Alamo Bowl, Herman was fired and replaced hours later by Steve Sarkisian, the offensive coordinator for national champion Alabama.
Asked about only two offensive touchdowns in last Saturday’s glorified scrimmage, Sarkisian responded bluntly: “Spring game.” He also mentioned watered-down versions of the offense with split squads and unusual rotations.
“All in all, it was fun, I think, for our guys just to get out and compete. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go,” said Sarkisian, a former USC and Washington head coach. “We’ve come a long way in 3 ½ months, but we’ve got plenty of work to do here, starting in June and then into fall camp.”
Texas had four winning seasons with four bowl wins under Herman, and is still the last national champion from the Big 12 (the 2005 season). But Oklahoma has won the last six Big 12 titles. Plus, Iowa State went to its first league championship game last year after winning 23-20 in the Longhorns’ home finale.
Miles had three years left on his contract when Kansas announced his departure in March, only days after he was placed on administrative leave amid sexual misconduct allegations from his tenure at LSU, where he won a national title in 2007.
Interim head coach Emmett Jones has led the Jayhawks this spring, with their spring game set for Saturday.
Dave Aranda finally got to go through his first spring drills at Baylor after a season as head coach and several changes to his staff.
The Bears went 2-7 last year, averaging only 310 yards and 23 points per game after no spring workouts because of the pandemic.
Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora was replaced by Texas native Jeff Grimes, the BYU offensive coordinator the past three years, and there are also new receivers and offensive line coaches. Grimes was previously at LSU, overlapping in 2016-17 with the first two of Aranda’s four seasons as defensive coordinator there that were capped by the 2019 national title.
“To be the consistent, reliable offense we want comes with running the football and really setting the stage for the play-action passes,” Aranda said after the spring game. “We can see that. I think the details we can hone in on better.”
No player frustrated Texas fans last season more than tailback Bijan Robinson. Not because of anything he did, but because of Herman’s odd refusal to give him the ball more often. The five-star recruit lived up to it that billing by smashing the Texas record for yards-per-carry at a whopping 8.2. He gained 355 yards and averaged 18.7 per carry his last two games. But Robinson’s 86 carries over nine games was nearly 30 fewer than departed quarterback Sam Ehlinger, as Herman insisted on platooning tailbacks.
Four former Big 12 quarterbacks are coaching QBs at their alma mater, three moving into that role this spring.
Collin Klein, the 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist at Kansas State, is going into his fifth season as the Wildcats quarterback coach. The spring additions are Sonny Cumbie at Texas Tech, Kenny Hill at TCU and Shawn Bell at Baylor.
Cumbie returned to Texas Tech as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after seven seasons in the same role at TCU. The former walk-on threw for 4,742 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior for the Red Raiders in 2004.
Hill, an offensive analyst at TCU last season, replaced the position coach he had when starting for the Horned Frogs in 2016 and 2017.
Bell is in his fifth year on Baylor’s staff. He started as an offensive analyst, then coached the offensive line and tight ends before taking over the position he played for the Bears from 2003-06.
West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege’s stock fell at the end of last season when he struggled in a blowout loss at Iowa State and was benched in the second half of a Liberty Bowl win over Army.
Doege was second in the Big 12 with 259 passing yards per game, but was sixth with only 14 TD passes. He worked on his efficiency in the pocket during the spring and seems to have the starting job for his senior season after backup Austin Kendall entered the transfer portal in January.
AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno and John Raby contributed to this report.
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WVU defensive lineman Jeffery Pooler plans to transfer

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia defensive lineman Jeffery Pooler plans to transfer.
Pooler announced his intentions Wednesday on Twitter to enter the NCAA transfer portal.
Pooler had 23 tackles with three sacks last season and made 17 starts in 38 career games. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management from West Virginia in 2019.
He’s the third defensive starter to announce plans to transfer since the end of last season. Safety Tykee Smith transferred to Georgia, and cornerback Dreshun Miller landed at Auburn.

West Virginia Sports

Some Big 12 players expected to impact their teams in 2021

Some Big 12 Conference players expected to have impact seasons for their teams in 2021:
Nose tackle Siaki Ika, sophomore. The LSU transfer played in 13 games as part of a rotation at nose tackle and had 17 tackles as a true freshman on the Tigers’ 2019 national championship team, when second-year Baylor head coach Dave Aranda was LSU’s defensive coordinator. The 6-foot-4, 350-pound Ika should be a force in the middle for the Bears, and is a huge boost on the defensive front that was lacking experience.
Tight end Easton Dean, sophomore. The 6-foot-6, 251-pound Dean played quarterback in high school, but was switched to TE upon his arrival in Ames. Coach Matt Campbell declared then that Dean would “be the best tight end we’ve ever had here.” Dean now gets the chance to show it with Dylan Soehner’s departure. The Cyclones love to line up with three tight ends, and Dean should be in that group with stars Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen.
Defensive back Karon Prunty, sophomore. Prunty forced a fumble and intercepted a pass, both career firsts, in the final game of his true freshman season. He had 26 tackles and 10 pass breakups while starting all nine game, and didn’t allow a touchdown pass.
Running back Deuce Vaughn, sophomore. Vaughn had quite an introduction to the Big 12 last season, leading the Wildcats as a true freshman in rushing yards (642) and receiving yards (434), while also having seven kickoff returns for 145 yards. Vaughn could have the ability to be even more versatile with the return of running back Joe Ervin, who opted out of playing last season after playing in four games in 2019.
Running back Kennedy Brooks, junior. After opting out last season, Brooks is back just in time after the Sooners lost Rhamondre Stevenson (declared for NFL draft) and TJ Pledger (transferred to Utah). A second-team AP All-Big 12 pick as a sophomore in 2019, Brooks had 2,067 yards and 18 TDs rushing over consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The Sooners also have junior Tennessee transfer Eric Gray and three returning sophomores.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, senior. Rodriguez took advantage of the extra year and is back after leading the Cowboys in tackles the past two seasons. His 58 solo tackles led all Power Five linebackers in 2020, when he finished with 82 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and three pass breakups. As a junior, he led the team with 103 tackles and was named the team’s defensive MVP.
Running back Zach Evans, sophomore. The first five-star recruit ever to sign with the Horned Frogs, Evans averaged 7.7 yards per carry (414 yards rushing on 54 carries) with four touchdowns as a true freshman last season. Among six sophomore running backs on TCU’s roster, Evans ran for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries the last three games, with two 100-yard games in that span.
Wide receiver Troy Omeire, redshirt freshman. There were several circus catches in preseason practice last year for the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Omeire, who along his big size has speed. But the four-star recruit missed his first season in Austin because of a torn ACL in his right knee, a non-contact injury in the first Texas scrimmage in mid-August.
Wide receiver Eric Ezukanma, junior. This could be the real breakout season for the 6-foot-3 receiver who led the Red Raiders with 46 catches for 748 yards and six TDs last season, and was second in the Big 12 with 74.8 yards receiving per game. He now could be the top target for Oregon transfer quarterback Tyler Shough, especially with the departures of receivers Ja’Lynn Polk (to Washington) and KeSean Carter (to Houston).
Running back Leddie Brown, senior. West Virginia wants to do more than just hand the ball to Brown, who ran for 1,010 yards last season and was one of only two Big 12 running backs to average 100 yards per game. The 6-foot, 212-pound Brown was also the Mountaineers’ second-leading receiver with 31 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt, Eric Olson, John Raby, Dave Skretta and Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.
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West Virginia coach Neal Brown gets 2-year extension

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia coach Neal Brown has received a two-year contract extension through the 2026 season, athletic director Shane Lyons announced Thursday.
Brown has coached the Mountaineers to an 11-11 record in his first two seasons, including a 6-4 mark in 2020. He had four years remaining on his original contract. Brown was hired in January 2019 to replace Dana Holgorsen after going 35-16 in four years at Troy.
Brown’s annual compensation, including base salary and supplemental compensation, will average $3.98 million over the length of the new six-year deal. His previous contract averaged about $3.2 million.
Lyons said the salary commitment to Brown’s coaching staff has been increased to $4 million.
“Coach Brown and I are committed to the future success of our football program,” Lyons said. “I am pleased with the upward trajectory of the program and its culture. Our student-athletes have excelled on the field and in the classroom, and the overall leadership of Mountaineer football is strong.”
In improving from a 5-7 mark in Brown’s first season, the Mountaineers went 5-0 at home last season and finished fourth nationally on defense with 291 yards allowed per game.
“As we enter year three, I look forward to getting our fans back in the stadium and building on the momentum we have going in our program,” Brown said.
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West Virginia Sports

West Virginia signs DePaul grad transfer Pauly Paulicap

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia has added DePaul forward Pauly Paulicap as a graduate transfer.
Coach Bob Huggins announced Paulicap’s signing Thursday.
The 6-foot-8 Paulicap will bring defensive help to the Mountaineers, who ranked eighth in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 72 points per game last season.
Paulicap averaged more than seven points and six rebounds with 1.6 blocked shots per game for DePaul as a graduate transfer last season when he started 15 of 19 games. He spent the three previous seasons at Manhattan.
Paulicap joins 6-9 transfer Dimon Carrigan from Florida International in the Mountaineers’ frontcourt.
“We struggled to protect the rim a year ago, one of a few weaknesses that we had,” Huggins said. “These two guys give us the opportunity to fix that problem in a big way.”
The Mountaineers also previously signed Old Dominion guard Malik Curry as a transfer.
They will join two incoming freshmen: Kobe Johnson from Canton, Ohio, and guard Seth Wilson from Lorain, Ohio.

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Arrieta makes triumphant return as Cubs beat Pirates 5-1

CHICAGO (AP) — Jake Arrieta pitched six solid innings in a triumphant return to the Cubs, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward homered, and Chicago beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 on Saturday afternoon.
Arrieta (1-0) got a warm reception prior to the game, then gave up just one run and six hits. The 35-year-old right-hander struck out five and walked one.
Arrieta played 4 1/2 years for Chicago, winning a Cy Young Award and a World Series, before signing with Philadelphia in March 2018. He returned to the Cubs in February for a $6 million, one-year contract.
“I’ve been anticipating this day for awhile,” he said.
The Cubs have, too.
“It brought back good memories of having him on the mound and pitching against the Pirates, good memories of him doing that a lot,” Bryant said.
One of Arrieta’s most memorable performances with the Cubs was his five-hit shutout in the 2015 wild-card game at Pittsburgh. He struck out 11 and did not walk a batter.
The Cubs beat St. Louis in their division series before losing to the Mets in the NLCS. A year later, they won it all, ending a championship drought dating to 1908.
Arrieta said he spent the past few days riding his electric scooter around the city, taking in the familiar old sights and mingling with the fans as much as he can.
“I look forward to more scooter rides, meeting more people,” he said.
Bryant made it 3-1 in the third with a solo homer to the center-field basket against Tyler Anderson, pointing to his baby son in the stands after crossing the plate. Heyward bumped the lead to three with a long drive to the right-field bleachers off Clay Holmes in the sixth. And the Cubs added another run in the seventh when Bryant walked and scored.
Javier Báez singled twice, drove in a run and scored one. He also stole two bases.
“J-Hey’s home run was loud,” manager David Ross said. “I don’t know if you could tell on TV or in the stadium. It was extremely loud. It was nice to hear that. Up and down the lineup, I thought we did a really good job.”
Heyward called his drive on a 3-1 sinker a reward for “doing things right and being on time.”
“Tried to be aggressive in the zone,” he said. “I feel like like they’ve done a good job these two games attacking us aggressively in certain counts, in certain times and then making us lay off a tough pitch. It was nice to get ahead right there and not miss one.”
Brandon Workman, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel each threw a perfect inning, combining to strike out seven and walk none. The Cubs avoided their first 0-2 start since the 2014 team lost the first two.
Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes left the game because of discomfort in his left wrist. He jammed his hand diving back to first on a pickoff attempt after walking in the first inning.
Hayes scored on Kevin Newman’s two-out single. But Erik González batted for him in the third and remained at third base.
Anderson (0-1) went five innings in his Pirates debut, allowing three runs and five hits. The left-hander, who signed with Pittsburgh in free agency, struck out seven and walked two.
Pirates right-hander Kyle Crick was going through the intake process after being away from the team for the birth of his child. Manager Derek Shelton said he could be cleared as soon as Sunday. Crick had a 1.59 ERA in seven relief appearances last year.
RHP Zach Davies, acquired from San Diego for NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish, makes his Cubs debut, while RHP Mitch Keller starts for Pittsburgh on his 25th birthday. Davies was 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts for the Padres last year after playing his first five seasons for Milwaukee. Keller had a 2.91 ERA in five starts for the Pirates.
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Baylor, Houston a matchup of programs on the rebound

By EDDIE PELLS AP National Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The redemption journeys involving Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and the Baylor program he faces at the Final Four on Saturday have roots in far-from-comforting places — courtrooms, prison cells, the NCAA compliance office.
They are vastly different tales, one about a coach, Sampson, kicked out of the sport and labeled a serial cheater, the other about the near-destruction of a program tainted by murder, rule-breaking and a cover-up.
But they are similar, too, in how much work the protagonists were willing to take on to pick up the pieces and start over. The latest reward is this trip to the Final Four, a destination that seemed nothing short of fantastical when these journeys began.
“I felt led to come here,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said when recounting his decision to take over a program that had sunk lower than low when he became coach in 2003. “I really believed in the vision of the school, from the president and the administrators during that time and what they wanted Baylor to continue to grow and become.”
It was hard to see it then.
The Baylor scandal began in the wake of the 2003 murder of player Patrick Dennehy, who was found shot and buried in a gravel pit in Waco, Texas. A teammate, Carlos Dotson, eventually pleaded guilty to the murder.
In the aftermath, an NCAA investigation uncovered a sordid laundry list of transgressions, punctuated by an investigation into improper payments to Dennehy, and then coach Dave Bliss’s made-up story of Dennehy really having earned the money by dealing drugs.
The NCAA stripped away scholarships, made Baylor skip its non-conference schedule for a season and put it on probation through 2010. Four players left, and when Drew arrived in 2003 to pick up the pieces, he barely had a program: seven scholarship players and three walk-ons were all that were left.
“Obviously once we got into the season and you found out that most of your team were walk-ons and most of them weren’t over 6-2, then you realized it might be tougher than you originally thought,” Drew said. “But the goal was always to build a program that could consistently compete and have an opportunity to play in March.”
Among the believers was Sampson, who knew Drew to be an up-and-comer after he took over for his father, Homer, for a year at Valparaiso.
“These days, Baylor was lucky to get a coach as good as Drew,” Sampson said after the hiring while he was nearby, reaching a peak at Oklahoma.
Sampson took the Sooners to the Final Four in 2002 and back to the Elite Eight a year later.
But he ran into a multitude of NCAA problems, both at Oklahoma, then at his next job with Indiana. Most centered around hundreds of impermissible phone calls to recruits. By 2008, Indiana was on probation and Sampson had been kicked out of the game, handed a “show-cause” penalty from the NCAA that would bar him for five years.
Many of the lines Sampson stepped over then would not be considered NCAA violations today. Ousted from the college ranks, he essentially went on a rehab tour for six years as an assistant coach in the NBA. He didn’t envision returning until the Cougars — a team with a colorful history punctuated by the “Phi Slama Jama” years in the ’80s but not much in the present — came calling in 2014.
“I was angry after Indiana,” Sampson said in a 2019 interview with The Washington Post. “I was angry at myself. I blamed myself. I was mad about how it all went down. I had a lot of emotions, but I also had a wife and a family. I had to take care of my family. That was my No. 1 goal. I’ve always said this to them and to a lot of people: You’re not a loser in anything until you quit. Don’t quit.”
Now, Sampson finds himself back on college basketball’s biggest stage, 19 years after his last visit. He is living proof that if you work hard and know your job inside and out, there is almost always a second chance looming somewhere.
He will be seeking a title game berth just an hour’s drive up the highway from the scene of his lowest moments at Indiana. He revived his own career and, in doing so, built Houston back from the ground up. When Sampson took over, the once-proud program had made one NCAA Tournament appearance over the previous 22 seasons.
“Once we got through the first year, we just started adding pieces,” Sampson said. “We weren’t in a hurry. We didn’t try to cut any corners. We did it brick by brick.”

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Oklahoma St star freshman Cade Cunningham to enter NBA draft

By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Cade Cunningham used to see superstars when he watched NBA players.
Now, he sees opponents. They soon will see him, too.
Cunningham announced Thursday that he will enter the NBA draft after a dynamic freshman season for Oklahoma State that saw him named a first-team AP All-American.
“I see them as more human now than I used to,” he said. “I’ve been looking at those guys since I was a sophomore in high school. Those are the guys I’ve got to try to outwork right now.”
The 6-foot-8 point guard is expected to be a high pick — possibly No. 1 overall. His decision was no surprise — the 19-year-old Cunningham participated in Senior Night activities before the Cowboys faced Oklahoma in Stillwater.
But even after Oklahoma State’s NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon State, Cunningham wouldn’t fully commit either way, deflecting a question about his future while hinting he was ready to move on. He finally made his declaration in a news conference at Gallagher-Iba Arena with coach Mike Boynton by his side and his teammates seated in the courtside bleachers.
“It’s hard to make that decision in the moment, so I just wanted to wait until my head was level,” he said. “But I was just blessed to have that opportunity to be able to enter the draft. I felt like I had did a lot of the work early to be in that position.”
Cunningham won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the top freshman in college basketball. He led the Big 12 in scoring with 20.2 points per game. In league play, he ranked in the top 10 in scoring (20.1), seventh in rebounding (6.5), eighth in field goal percentage (.443), 10th in assists (3.3) and seventh in free throw percentage (.843).
Boynton said that versatility should serve Cunningham well as a pro.
“He’s unique in that I don’t think you can have a roster that he couldn’t fit in because he’s able to play with any type of other player,” Boynton said. “I think he fits regardless of what your roster looks like because his versatility allows you to play another point guard with him, play him at the point, he can post up, which we’ve shown this year, he can be a shooter. That totality of skills is what makes him, I think, a super high value for any NBA franchise out there.”
Cunningham often saved his best moments for late-game surges. In his most dynamic performance, he scored 10 of his 40 points in overtime to help the Cowboys win at rival Oklahoma. He finished his college career by scoring 24 points in Oklahoma State’s 80-70 loss to Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Kyle Boone, a college basketball writer who helps compile CBS Sports’ mock draft, said Cunningham is the top prospect. He said there will chatter about USC’s Evan Mobley, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs and the NBA’s G-League’s Jalen Green. But he said Cunningham is at the top.
“There are a lot of players in this draft who are impressive, but don’t overthink it,” Boone said. “Cade’s 6-foot-8. He’s a point guard. … The high IQ that he has — he’s clearly the number one prospect in this draft. By the end of this, I think we’re going to see that Cade is clearly the top guy on NBA teams’ big boards.”
Cunningham knows the work is just beginning. The Texas native already been thinking of ways to improve before the July 29 draft date.
“Throughout the season, I was just adding things on in my head,” he said. “We don’t have as much time to just get in the gym and work. I definitely want to get my fluidity and my movement better, whether that’s yoga and things like that. Just getting my range of motion and things a lot better. I still want to focus on tightening my handle, shooting the ball better, just getting more consistent at a lot of the things that I do now.”
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West Virginia guard Taz Sherman to enter NBA draft process

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia guard Taz Sherman plans to enter the NBA draft process.
Sherman announced his intentions Sunday on Twitter, saying he will leave open the option of returning to school for a final season.
Sherman joins fellow guard Sean McNeil in declaring for the draft process. In addition, guard Jordan McCabe and forward Emmitt Matthews announced their plans to transfer last week.
Sherman, a senior, was third in team scoring at 13.4 points per game.
West Virginia lost to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to finish the season 19-10.