JJ Culver certainly isn’t Wilt Chamberlain. His scoring onslaught isn’t as impressive as Kobe Bryant’s legendary 81-point game, either, and context is indeed necessary to put it in proper historical perspective.
But any instance of a basketball player reaching the century mark in a single game is noteworthy nonetheless, and that’s exactly the feat Culver pulled off on Tuesday night. The older brother of Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Jarrett Culver scored 100 points in Wayland Baptist’s 124-60 rout of Southwestern Adventist.
Not everyone, though, agrees that Culver’s epic performance deserves the national attention it’s received.
Criticism of Culver’s accomplishment runs the gamut of expected commentary from those who go out of their way to sneer at others’ success.
The low level of NAIA competition was frequently invoked, as was the assumption that Culver ball-hogged to an extent that hurt his team. Some were critical of his efficiency.
None of the reactions above stand up to scrutiny. But if there’s one critique that at least holds some weight, it’s acknowledging the quality of competition at the NAIA level.
Not affiliated with the NCAA, the NAIA is comprised of approximately 250 smaller college across the country where over 60,000 students continue living their athletic dreams after high school. Its quality of play is generally considered on par with the NCAA’s Division III, which doesn’t offer athletic scholarships.
Obviously, it’s safe to say Culver wouldn’t have dropped 100 points on superior defenders. He wouldn’t be playing at Wayland Baptist if he was capable of dominating to even half that extent against bigger, more athletic players.
But there’s a reason why only one other player in NAIA history, and just two in NCAA annals, have ever scored in triple-digits: It’s incredibly difficult to do.
The last player to pull it off? Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor, who dropped an NCAA record 138 points in November 2012.
But he did it against tiny Faith Baptist College, a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association, and needed 108 shots to reach that ridiculous number.
So much for the chatter about Culver’s substandard competition and weak efficiency. In fact, he averaged more points per shot than the top offense in Division I basketball.
As for the notion that Culver’s teammates were frustrated by him dominating the ball? We’ll let Wayland Baptist’s Matthew Mulloy lay that baseless appraisal to rest . He said, per Nathan Gise of the Plainview Herald:
Coach pulled us aside after he scored the school record and said, ‘Do you guys want him to keep going?’ and it was a unanimous yes because we love J.J. We just want him to succeed. All of us were on board.
Still, the most foolproof defense of Culver’s effort is self-evident. Just watch how hard he worked to score again and again and again on a defense that was hellbent on stopping him.
It’s not like Culver was shooting in an open gym. His 100 points came from all over the floor, in most every way imaginable: on spot-up threes, aggressive dribble drives, physical post-ups, transition run-outs after steals, and more.
Players who shoulder their team’s heaviest scoring burden rarely get enough credit for how hard it is to create makable shots in the first place. Culver didn’t just put up 62 field goal attempts and get to the line 27 times but proved efficient enough to warrant such outlandish usage even after it was clear he had it going.
Ignore the hate, JJ. Your night is just as special in the grand scheme of basketball as it was in the moment, and deservedly so.