Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe is a double-double machine. The NCAA college basketball phenom can score and rebound with the best of them, which is why it isn't surprising that Kentucky has been playing high-level basketball since his arrival. The unanimous SEC Player of the Year in 2021-22 can explode on both ends of the floor and shift momentum in the Wildcats' favor on any given night at Rupp Arena.
The men's basketball star didn't fail as a player at West Virginia, but it was clear that he wasn't making substantial strides as a player under Bob Huggins. Luckily for the Wildcats, John Calipari has given him an opportunity to play to his strengths in Lexington. Tshiebwe's senior season is just beginning, but there's no denying that he's been a great fit in Calipari's system. And as well all know from Coach Cal's track record, Tshiebwe is turning into a first-round lottery pick ( or at worst a second-round pick), as the 2022 National Player of the Year is beginning to climb up the mock draft rankings behind Victor Wembanyama.
Oscar Tshiebwe Recruiting and Career Highlights
Let's get one thing straight right now, the big man from Lubumbashi, DR Congo, is not a one-trick pony offensively. The 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot-4.25 wingspan and 9-foot-1 standing reach can hurt opposing defenses from Kansas, Alabama and South Carolina, in a variety of ways and isn't easy to matchup against. When he runs the floor hard after made or missed baskets and sprints toward the rim, he is normally rewarded by his teammates in the paint. When he's forced to go up against set defenses, he demonstrates why he's viewed by teams like Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia as one of the best low-post sealers in the country.
Unlike many big men that you'll see in college basketball, the 2022 John R. Wooden Award winner (named after the UCLA legend) does his work early and ensures that his defenders have no way of fronting him down low. That requires a unique combination of nimble feet and excellent coordination, which is a combination that Tshiebwe has in his arsenal. After raising his outside hand and making it easier for his teammates to feed him on the left or right block, he likes to catch the ball cleanly and power through defenders' bodies. You'll see him turn to his trusty jump hook when he's unable to play bully ball.
Tshiebwe's not a pick-and-pop threat from three-point land, but he's capable of setting powerful ball screens and drilling 15-foot jumpers with no hesitation. He's also willing to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket when that option isn't available. He never gets fazed after failing to find the bottom of the net, because he prides himself on relentlessly chasing down the ball and cleaning up his misses at the rim. Tshiebwe is an offensive rebound fiend, especially when the miss comes from his hand.
On the defensive end, he's as intelligent as they come as a shot blocker. Instead of getting fooled by shot fakes near the basket, he stays on the hardwood until he senses that his opponents are ready to explode up. Altering layups in the paint and pulling down defensive rebounds works just fine for Tshiebwe as well. Even more impressively, he's been able to lead the Kentucky Wildcats in steals by picking off lazy passes at the elbows and in the low-post.
Tshiebwe was a McDonald's All-American who had several Power 5 programs chasing after him. He attended Mountain Mission School and Kennedy Catholic High School in addition to running with ITPS Wildcats on the AAU Circuit. After narrowing down his list of schools to Kentucky, Baylor, Illinois and West Virginia, the consensus five-star prospect in the 2019 recruiting class elected to sign with Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers on October 20, 2018. He transferred from the program just 10 games into his sophomore season and joined Kentucky 'Cats on January 10, 2021.
Oscar Tshiebwe's Journey to the United States and to the NBA Draft Radar
Tshiebwe may have started playing high school basketball in the United States, but he began his life in a completely different country. He grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his parents, Mbuyi and Kaya Rosalie Tshiebwe.
Soccer was his first love, but he eventually switched to basketball due to his large stature. He quickly caught the eye of Bismack Biyombo and later attended a camp hosted by the Phoenix Suns center. In 2015, Tshiebwe moved to the United States and started playing against better competition, improving his overall abilities as a basketball player.
Unfinished Business at Kentucky
After averaging 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in 41 games at West Virginia, Tshiebwe showed up at Kentucky ready to elevate his game to new heights. As a Wildcat, Tshiebwe was averaging 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game while also blocking 1.6 shots a night during the 2021-22 season.
He recorded over 20 double-doubles last season, which is something that most Division I players can't say that they've accomplished. For reference, his mastery against Florida and Duke last year are fantastic references to the dominance he brings to the court for the Wildcats. From loud dunks, powerful putbacks, Tshiebwe is a walking ESPN highlight reel. But there's one thing we're sure this dominant college player want to add to his hoops resume before heading to the NBA and no, we're not talking about an NIL deal.
Tshiebwe returned to Lexington in the preseason with a NCAA Tournament run on his mind. After watching North Carolina's run to last season's title game, the Wildcats are ready to take things to the next level, and reclaim their place as a college basketball powerhouse following their early exit from last year's tournament. For Tshiebwe and Kentucky, next year and next season has arrived, and it's go time.
The 2023 regular season hasn't turned out like most Wildcats fans had hoped. It's not easy when Purdue is the top team in the country and you're battling Florida and Missouri just to stay alive in the SEC. Sure, they're not in hot water like Louisville, but this Wildcats team will need to right their ship quick if they want to make a March Madness run a reality.
As for our big man, you know exactly what you're going to get from Tshiebwe on a nightly basis, which is why consistency shouldn't be an issue for him moving forward. Through January he's averaging 16.6 points a game, 13.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and shoots 59% from the free throw line. Hopefully, an NBA team takes a chance on him in the NBA Draft the same way he took a chance on himself as a start on the Kentucky basketball team.
This article was originally published on March 18, 2022, and has been updated since.
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