While he is signed, Tshiebwe will not be able to play in any games for the Wildcats until next season, but he will be able to practice, which head coach John Calipari believes could give his team a big boost.
While speaking with the media Friday, Calipari stated he hopes Tshiebwe can help the team the same way Enes Kanter did during the 2010-11 season when he was appealing the NCAA’s decision that ruled him permanently ineligible.
Calipari said Kanter helped take fellow big Josh Harrellson, who played a key roll in leading the Wildcats to the 2011 Final Four to the “next level,” and he hopes Tshiebwe will have the same effect on starting center Olivier Sarr.
Calipari also mentioned what Ben Jordan did last season as a walk-on who didn’t play in games but helped Nick Richards develop in practice and become an All-SEC performer.
Sarr has had an up and down season for the Wildcats, as he’s averaging 10.7 points per game with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. These numbers are not nearly as impressive as the junior year he put together at Wake Forest last season when he averaged 13.7 points with 9.0 rebounds.
Part of that could be due to Sarr is the only true center on the roster, so he’s not been going against another true center in practice this year.
If Tshiebwe can truly help take Sarr as well as other bigs such as Isiah Jackson to the next level while helping Kentucky reach its potential, he could be just as valuable now than he will be next year on the floor.