Spring 2021 Magazine

Timberwolves rookie Jarrett Culver ready for NBA Summer League with God 'the priority in my life'

For Jarrett Culver and the other 59 players selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, the excitement of that night has subsided and the hard work is set to begin. The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas gets underway Friday and Culver is eager to prove he was worth the No. 6 pick in the draft.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

“After these interviews, after spending time with my family, I’m making sure I get in the gym,” Culver said after being drafted.

Culver will be representing the Minnesota Timberwolves, although he won’t yet officially be a member of the team when it arrives in Las Vegas. He was selected sixth by the Phoenix Suns, who sent him to Minnesota in exchange for Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick (Cameron Johnson) on draft night. The deal will become official on July 6.

Culver hopes the defensive prowess he displayed while leading Texas Tech to April’s NCAA title game will translate to the NBA and complement Minnesota’s other stars, like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Culver said he hopes to be the Timberwolves’ lock-down defender always assigned the other team’s best player. He is a lean 6-foot-7, 195 pounds, but showcased his ability to defend in the paint and on the perimeter during his two seasons with the Red Raiders.

Defense may be Culver’s calling card, but his breakout sophomore campaign came with an offensive explosion. His team-leading 18.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game put him squarely in the discussion as a top NBA pick, as he showed his ability to get his own shot from anywhere on the court. Behind Culver’s stellar play, the Red Raiders won a school-record 31 games and a share of the Big 12 Conference title in Culver’s final season in Lubbock. They earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Virginia in the NCAA championship game.

Culver was named the Big 12 Player of the Year for his efforts, and was on his way to church when he heard the news.

“I was so excited,” he told ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “I was screaming gospel music. I got to church, told my parents. They were excited during church. It was pretty fun.”

Culver can often be found spending time with God in His Word.

“Before games, I’m praying and reading my Bible. It’s a routine now,” Culver told The Athletic. “I feel like God is with me on the court, and He protects me. It’s big for me.”

Culver didn’t have to venture far to attend Texas Tech. In fact, his whole family has lived in Lubbock since Culver was 3. His father, Hiawatha, is the Texas Tech basketball team chaplain and serves as a pastor at Lubbock’s Rising Star Baptist Church.

“My dad is a great role model, and just having him around the team and having him give motivational talks and prayers before games helps out,” Culver told The Undefeated. “If we practice on Sunday, my dad would come up and talk to us. If we don’t practice, I’m at my dad’s church. My routine hasn’t changed at all — God is the priority in my life.”

Culver will seek to keep his Sunday and pre-game routines in tact as he begins a new season of life in the NBA, a season of life that will begin in earnest this week.

The Timberwolves play their first game of the 2019 Summer League against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at 5 p.m. ET. Minnesota is also scheduled to play on July 7, 8 and 10.

RELATED STORIES:
Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver feels God is with him while leading Red Raiders to Final Four
UNC’s Cameron Johnson says ‘isn’t God good’ after being selected 11th overall in NBA Draft
NEW PODCAST: Troy Hudson – Minnesota Timberwolves Team Chaplain, Former NBA Player