LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Big 12 player of the year Jarrett Culver declared for the NBA draft Thursday after helping lead his hometown Texas Tech Red Raiders on the two deepest NCAA Tournament runs in school history.
Culver's on-campus announcement came 10 days after the Red Raiders finished their season with an overtime loss to Virginia in the national championship game. Texas Tech went to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time last season when Culver was a freshman.
The 6-foot-6 guard was the first recruit that Chris Beard reached out to after he became Texas Tech's head coach three years ago.
"Coach, thanks for taking a chance and believing on a kid from Lubbock, Texas. Thanks for giving me a chance," Culver said. "He coaches me hard every day, he brought the best out of me every day. He made me a better player, and a better person."
This season, Culver led the Red Raiders with 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game while they set a school record with 31 wins and won a share of their first Big 12 regular-season title. He was also a second-time AP All-America pick.
Beard, at the podium with Culver and his family, called Culver the "most unselfish best player-type guy" he has ever coached and thanked him.
"Basically from the first time I recruited Jarrett Culver until today he's done everything exactly like he said he would do," Beard said. "He told me he's going to be a team player. He told me he was going to work hard every day. He told me he was going to represent our program. He told me he was going to be a leader. He told me he was going to let us coach him hard."
Under new NCAA rules, the sophomore can sign with an agent and still return to school if he chooses. Culver has until May 29 to make a final decision.
Culver is expected to be a high pick in the draft June 20.
"In terms of this process, we've been connected 100 percent from day one. This is something we've always talked about and dreamed about," Beard said. "This is like a big, big-time day for Texas Tech basketball. This is a successful day."
Junior guard Davide Moretti will be the only one of Tech's top five scorers returning next season. Also gone with Culver will be seniors Brandone Francis, Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens.
Mooney and Owens were graduate transfers to the program last year after the Elite Eight run, when All-Big 12 guard Keenan Evans was among five seniors gone and high-soaring freshman forward Zhaire Smith left for early entry in the NBA draft.