Another day, another big man off the board for the Kentucky Wildcats.
On Saturday, five-star center Oscar Tshiebwe announced his commitment to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Ahead of the decision, Tshiebwe had cut his list down to Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois, and Baylor, though it was widely believed to be a two-horse race between the Wildcats and Mountaineers.
There is an interesting backstory as to why the Mountaineers overcame the allure of John Calipari and Kentucky Basketball: Tshiebwe lives with the same former host guardian family as current WVU big man Sagaba Konate, who lived where Tshiebwe is staying while playing for Kennedy Catholic in Hermitage, PA.
Even knowing that this was a major uphill climb, Calipari has been showing strong interest and engagement with Tshiebwe, who took his official visit to Lexington on Sept 29th. However, Tshiebwe’s host family did not travel with him, but they did for the trip to West Virginia.
It was clear from the beginning that the family was pushing for the Mountaineers, though you have to hope this decision is ultimately want Tshiebwe truly wanted. After all, he’s come a long way to become a highly-regarded recruit.
Tshiebwe is a textbook example of a player taking complete advantage of the summer evaluation period. He saw his individual ranking catapult over 50 spots after his dominating performance on the Adidas Gauntlet AAU Series.
During his run with the ITPS Wildcats (Pittsburgh), Tshiebwe averaged 21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks, while shooting an impressive 61% from the field. He went from virtually being an unknown, to a top target for many programs.
Tshiebwe is from the Congo, and has been in the United States for only around three years. That is quite remarkable considering how he is emerging as one of the top recruits in the class of 2019 while starring for the Kennedy Catholic School in Hermitage, PA. Tshiebwe is a physical presence listed at 6’9 and 250 pounds, while primarily playing the center position.
It seems pretty obvious that his development will continue at a rapid pace, and he already has a solid frame for college basketball. There is some genuinely tremendous long term potential once Tshiebwe gets on a college campus and can fully dedicate himself to becoming the best player he can be.
Oscar Tshiebwe with the tomahawk @Oscartshiebw @overtime pic.twitter.com/HP59TdgLiR— ITPS Wildcats (@ITPSwildcats) July 19, 2018
This summer when matched up with arguably the best player in the class of 2019, fellow center James Wiseman, Tshiebwe outplayed him. He posted more points and rebounds while solidifying himself as a true top big man prospect.
Tshiebwe has a very sturdy frame and is not shy to bang in the paint. The majority of his production comes from put backs and shots within a few feet of the basket. The sky is the limit for how good Tshiebwe can become over the next few years. His total transformation over the last 18 months gives credit to the idea of him finishing his senior season as a top 20 player and explains why Calipari was so interested in bringing him to Lexington.
Tshiebwe will want to continue to improve his fundamentals and look for creative ways to score the ball. But at this moment, he can run the floor and finish at the rim as well as anybody his age.
Good luck to him during his career at West Virginia. He’s going to become a special player in Morgantown.