Oscar Tshiebwe, one of the absolute best and most beloved players in Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball history, will bypass the 2022 NBA Draft and return to Lexington for the 2022-23 season. Tshiebwe made the announcement Wednesday live on SportsCenter.
This was undoubtedly one of the biggest stay-go decisions not only in the John Calipari era, but in the entire history of Kentucky basketball. After winning every National Player of the Year award, Tshiebwe becomes one of the rare instances in the history of college hoops where the Player of the Year returned to school.
What can you say about Oscar Tshiebwe that hasn’t already been said?
The 6-foot-9 forward from the Democratic Republic of the Congo rewrote the UK basketball record books in a magical season that exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations.
Some highlights and awards:
- Consensus National Player of the Year, the first in UK history.
- Just the second player to win NPOY in program history, joining future NBA Hall of Famer Anthony Davis.
- Consensus first-team All-American (2022)
- SEC Player of the Year (2022)
- NCAA season rebounds leader (2022)
- First-team All-SEC (2022)
- SEC All-Defensive Team (2022)
Tshiebwe wasted no time in introducing himself to the Big Blue Nation when he fought his tail off against Duke’s talented front-court snagging 20 rebounds in Madison Square Garden during the Champions Classic.
The Big O went out in similar fashion — pouring his heart and soul into his final game of the 2022 season.
Tshiebwe kept Kentucky competitive in their Round of 64 loss to 15th seeded Saint Peter’s with his 30 point 16 rebound performance. It was easily one of the best postseason performances of the John Calipari era. Though it ended in defeat, it was another reminder that Tshiebwe will continue to dominate college basketball.
Plus, now we can act like that loss to Saint Peter’s helped convince Tshiebwe his work at UK wasn’t done and he needed one more year in the Bluegrass.
Kentucky fans know all too well just how many times this year’s team called on Tshiebwe to keep them stabilized on both ends of the floor.
On a squad that boasted massive inconsistency throughout the season, Tshiebwe played no role in it whatsoever.
To put it simply — there may never be another player like Oscar Tshiebwe to play at the collegiate level.
His deep connection that the Kentucky fan base and people of the Commonwealth were equally as special as his stellar on-court performance.
Tshiebwe’s genuine engagement and willingness to share his faith made him a household name for reasons that went far beyond basketball.
Like many other college athletes, the introduction of NIL int this season opened up some intriguing opportunities for Tshiebwe, but it wasn’t after some hiccups and delays.
It took time, but after finally sorting some things out he did become eligible for certain forms of compensation. Being a foreign student on a visa muddies the waters with NIL still in its early stages, though the belief is UK and Tshiebwe will get it worked out so he can fully take advantage of NIL, which was key in getting him to return for another season.
The fact that Tshiebwe is returning and
I myself took advantage of the chance to throw a little coin Oscar’s way for all that, so I booked him for a Cameo video to announce the genders of my twin babies that are due this summer.
How’d he do?
National Player of the Year candidate and #BBN legend Oscar Tshiebwe would like to announce the genders of my twins due this summer!— Big Blue Drew (@BigBlueDrew33) February 20, 2022
LET’S GOOOOOOO! Thank you @Oscartshiebwe34! pic.twitter.com/CV7b9QoiS6
Any NBA franchise would be beyond lucky to add Oscar Tshiebwe the person to their organization once he becomes a pro in the next year or two, but how would his game translate to the NBA?
Throughout the season, I was asked this very question over and over, each time prompting me to respond the same way as time went on.
Oscar Tshiebwe proved a lot out of the gate by dominating Duke’s talented front-court featuring Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero and Theo John.
In a mid-season clash, he tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds against WKU’s 7 foot 5 Jamarion Sharp in a Kentucky rout.
Tshiebwe would continue rising to the occasion night after night in the SEC earning him player of the year honors.
I can never remember having as much confidence in a player “getting theirs” as I did with Oscar Tshiebwe from game-to-game.
He famously said “I’m not a machine. I’m Oscar.”
But he’s about as close as it gets.
Looking at his size alone it can be easy to discount Tshiebwe’s prospective ability to contribute in the NBA, but anybody who has followed him this year knows that it’d be a mistake to count him out.
Draft projections vary from anticipating that Tshiebwe goes somewhere in the second round to possibly sneaking into the end of Round 1. But even if that had happened, NIL money will be greater than what he’d make as a late first-round pick, assuming he is fully able to take advantage of it in the coming weeks.
With Big O back in the fold, Kentucky will be a strong contender to open the 2022-23 college basketball season as the No. 1 team and favorite to win it all.