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The Bluegrass Promised Land

Outside forces have led Oscar Tshiebwe to the Promised Land.

Oswcar Tshiebwe Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - Sea of Blue

We are on the brink of the official unofficial start of the basketball season. The echoes of “Go Big Blue” have resounded off the rooftop at Rupp at Big Blue Madness, we have seen then the Blue-White game, and now we begin to watch some exhibition games as we prepare for the Kentucky Wildcats’ Revenge Tour to tip off against Duke in Madison Square Garden.

That opening game will be a delayed dream come true for one of the young men wearing the Wildcat uniform, and he is one of the most anticipated players to watch this year. He dreamed of playing Kentucky basketball and being coached by John Calipari.

But a few years ago those dreams seemed a million miles away.

Oscar Tshiebwe arrived from Lubumbashi, Congo and entered the United States in 2015 but didn’t immediately set the world on fire with his basketball skills. Yet, he dreamed of playing for Kentucky even as a junior varsity player on his high school team. The skills improved, he got bigger, grew stronger, and caught the attention of some coaches and the colleges began to reach out.

West Virginia was the first to make an offer to Oscar but there were more to follow. And yes, he did catch the eye of Kentucky’s John Calipari.

By the time Oscar ended his senior season, Tshiebwe had put his skills on display against the number one prospect of 2019, James Wiseman, and held him to 12 points while the future Wildcat scored a scorching 26 along with 19 boards. He then added another 25 points and 18 rebounds against highly touted big man Kofi Cockburn (another name bantered about in the Kentucky offseason).

Calipari put an offer on the table for the McDonald’s All American and invited him to play at Kentucky. This was the offer that was ultimately Oscar’s dream offer, but he didn’t take it.

Instead, he felt led to honor the first school that gave him an offer. West Virginia. By his own admission, “West Virginia was a good place. Good people.”

Tshiebwe was good for West Virginia as well. In 41 games he averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds per game.

But after a time in West Virginia, the dream of playing at Kentucky never went away. Coach Bob Huggins suggested that “outside forces” impacted his decision. The pandemic, the strange season, the empty arenas, and the transfer portal led Oscar to chase that dream that had started years before.

So exactly what were these outside forces mentioned by Huggins?

Well for certain there will be speculation about the answer to that, and those that love to debate about such things will pile on, but the outside forces were given some clarity by Oscar himself.

“Sometimes we make a plan but God has different plans for us,” said Tshiebwe in a recent interview. “No matter how much you try in life, if God says no, it is no. You are not going to change God’s mind. I think I made the decision I wanted. God gave me what I wanted, but I changed it up from what I wanted to what I thought other people wanted me to do. That is why I ended up at a place that was not where God wanted me to be. When I decided to leave, this place was still here for me. I am so excited I am here.”

Coach Cal is glad to finally have him in Lexington and Oscar is ready to share his game with Big Blue Nation. In thinking back on West Virginia he concluded, “I just feel that was not the place that God wanted me to be for a long time. I’m so thankful for them welcoming me here.”

So for Oscar Tshiebwe, the Bluegrass of Kentucky is his Promised Land. And for Cat fans, they are glad he has come home.