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Oscar Tshiebwe opens up about finally arriving at “dream school”

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“I am so happy to be here.”

Oscar Tshiebwe UK Athletics

Oscar Tshiebwe just had his first official meeting with UK media, and it’s clear he’s going to become a fan-favorite very soon.

On Wednesday, Tshiebwe opened up about his decision to leave West Virginia and transfer to UK, the school he always wanted to be at dating back to his first year of high school.

Kentucky was my school, my favorite school, my dream school since my freshman year in high school,” said Tshiebwe. “I ended up choosing West Virginia, but look what God did. He sent me to the place I always prayed for to be. So, I’m so happy to be here.”

Here is a recap of what Tshiebwe had to say via UK Athletics.

On why he did not consider going to the NBA when he decided to transfer from West Virginia …

“Like for this year, I had a conversation with Coach Cal about that. But he told me, ‘We’ve got to work. We have a lot of work to do.’ For myself, even I feel like if I test the draft, it is nothing—like I know that the results that we get, it is not going to change my mind. My mind is like, I’ve got to work. I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to be ready for this team next year.”

On practicing with Kentucky this semester and what did he gain with that experience …

“It was a great experience for me. It was great. Like at practice was absolutely different from where I came from. Practice last year, there was a lot of stuff for me to work on to be ready for this team next year. So, that was great for me to see those things. So, now I’m working on the things to be ready for next year’s team.”

On how that experience will help him next season …

“Yeah, that really helped me a lot. I see what I need to work on and to help this team. I know what was missing in this team. Like, we really struggled last year with rebounding. It is something that I really bring to the table too. I’m a fighter. I go for every rebound. I don’t care who I’m going against. Post moves, we had a lot of skills, but we did not have a lot of muscle in there. Like, I thought there were some people that kind of bullied us a little. I’m going to be ready for them.”

On how he thinks he’ll be used next year and if he can play with another big …

“That was great to play with somebody else big. I did not really get the space. The system (West Virginia) that we were playing, it was really clogged up, but it was good. Like, we were dominant in it whoever we’d go against. But as I see Kentucky, the way that we play here is way different than how West Virginia played. They (UK) play one in and four out. They give you a lot of opportunities to go one-on-one. They give you a lot of opportunity with a double team and then you kick the ball outside. That is a great system. I feel like I’m in the right place.”

On what he wants to improve on …

“I’ve got to get better on my jump shot, post moves like always. I had a conversation with Coach Cal and he said, ‘Don’t forget the things that brought you here. The things you do better, don’t forget those. You have to continue to get better on the things that you can do best and keep learning the new stuff.’ That’s what I’m learning. I told them they can teach me the game of basketball. That’s because I’m new in this game. I’ve got a lot to learn. That’s why I’m listening to them all of the time.”

On the transfer portal …

“Sometimes you choose a place and you get there and it’s not working. It’s not like you don’t like the people, don’t like the place, it’s just you don’t feel like you’ve got to keep going over there. Like for me, I’ll say I’m a true believer in God. God makes most of the decisions in my life because I pray for it and I listen to what God is telling me to do. Then I make my decision. So, from what I see with everybody moving, transferring—like, I don’t know what their situation is that they’re going through but my situation was driven by God.”

On why he wanted to play for Kentucky …

“For what Coach means, Kentucky isn’t for everyone. This place is for the people who really need to reap success, who really need something in their life. For me, being in this place is a blessing. It is hard work and a belief in God because the best gifts always come from God. God gave me a gift and you need to work for it. So, I’m so happy being here and I feel like I deserve to be here and to help this team.”

On wanting to come to Kentucky and be a one-and-done player when he was in high school …

“It’s very accurate. I wanted to be one-and-done and go straight (to the NBA) from high school. I chose West Virginia over Kentucky and went to West Virginia, but Kentucky was my school, my favorite school, my dream school since my freshman year in high school. I ended up choosing West Virginia but look what God did. He sent me to the place I always prayed for to be. So, I’m so happy to be here, and I know I wanted to be one-and-done since my freshman year, but the way God does things differently than how we do things, we just have to find his way.”

On how important it was for him to be flexible and go with the journey he is on …

“That is a great question. In life, what my daddy used to tell me all the time is you have to be patient. Sometimes you’re planning stuff, God is planning other stuff for you. That’s why we need to be patient and trust God in every situation we’re going through and work hard and never give up.”

On how he balances being a happy guy off the court but a ferocious player on the court …

“When you’re outside, yeah, you enjoy spending time with people. Laughing is the gift God gave me. But when you get on the court, it’s time for business. It’s time to take care of (business). That’s my job. Like, when I’m out there, there’s no time to joke around. It’s time to get business done, and we’ve got to win. It’s all about winning. From what I understand in this game of basketball, you have to give everything you have to win the game. It doesn’t matter how hard a game it was; it’s how you finish. It’s about winning. When I’m out there, my mind is really concentrated and focused. I try to help win the game.”

On what the matchups were like against his teammates in practice when he got to UK …

“I had to go hard because they needed somebody physical to push them, go against strong with them because they were struggling against some people, some bigs in our league. That’s why I had to work harder, to run, to go stronger with them all the time. We needed to do good. We needed somebody to help them. We had a lot of skills with this team but we were missing physicality. But this year, I feel like we’re in a great, great situation and we’re going to make a change.”

On waiting for just one phone call – from John Calipari – when he put his name in the transfer portal …

“My relationship with Coach has been great since my high school (days). And even when I decided to choose West Virginia over Kentucky, he called me and was like, ‘I’m proud of you. You’ve got to go where you feel comfortable. One thing I’ll tell you is keep working. There will be nothing easy in life no matter wherever you go.’ Since then my relationship has been great. I always wanted to play for Kentucky and Kentucky was my dream school but why did I change my mind? I’m at West Virginia now. I feel like I was not happy anymore and everything was not good. I was not laughing. I was not enjoying my time anymore. That’s why I said no, this is the time I pray. I prayed because I wanted God to help me with the situation. Most people think I was going to ruin my life. I said no. That’s why I say you cannot listen to what people say. You only listen to what God says in your life. After I decided to leave, I had everybody in the country call me and tell me how much they’re going to help me and how much they’re going to give me and how much they can do, but I wanted to hear from Coach Cal because I see that the team is going to be good. I was hoping I could come straight and help this team, but I couldn’t, so I said I can practice. So, be ready for next year. I am so happy to be here.”