Kentucky big man and 2022 National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe declared for the 2023 NBA Draft Friday while maintaining his final year of college eligibility. A West Virginia transfer, Tshiebwe has starred for the Wildcats each of the past two seasons. He has one year of eligibility remaining due to the 2020-21 season not counting as a result of the pandemic. For more on Tshiebwe’s decision to declare, read the latest from CatsPause.
In 66 career games with the Wildcats over two seasons, Tshiebwe averaged 16.9 points and 14.4 rebounds en route to becoming just Kentucky’s ninth two-time consensus All-American.
“I’m probably going to say sorry to Big Blue Nation because when I came here, my dream was to do something great. But two years in a row, it did not happen,” a dejected Tshiebwe said after the Wildcats’ 75-69 loss to Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last month. “Not everybody is able to make their dream true. For me to be here for two years, I just give all the glory to God. I am very appreciative for Kentucky and everybody for the opportunity.”
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After Tshiebwe’s decision, plenty of reaction from the media poured in:
Essie Hollis (Strong Vincent) is the only other graduate from a District 10 school I can think of who was drafted and played in the NBA. Oscar Tshiebwe graduated from Kennedy Catholic.
New Orleans drafted Hollis in 1977. He played 25 games for Detroit in 1978-79. https://t.co/R3A6XssXOh
— Mike Copper (@ETNcopper) April 8, 2023
Tshiebwe has had an interesting college career since coming out of Hermitage (Pa.) Kennedy Catholic. He took his talents to West Virginia as a five-star recruit on 247Sports and the Class of 2019’s No. 23 overall prospect, No. 5 center and No. 1 player in Pennsylvania.
Kentucky All- America center Oscar Tshiebwe declares for NBA draft while keeping college eligibility. just our opinion, but could use more time under coach Cal to work on jumper, pick and roll defense. great kid, hoping for the best either way.
— Dick Weiss (@HoopsWeiss) April 7, 2023
A return could be on the table for Tshiebwe, who returned to Kentucky after a monster season in 2022. As a senior with the Wildcats in 2022-23, Tshiebwe averaged 16.5 points and 13.7 rebounds in 33.6 minutes while starting 30 of 32 games.
The Kentucky Basketball Offseason Tracker has been updated to reflect Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft https://t.co/oamVlhk76K via @ChrisFisher247 #BBN pic.twitter.com/SFxgzEWmeF
— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) April 8, 2023
Tshiebwe — who ranks in the top 10 in rebounds (952), top 25 in blocks (87), top 30 in steals (112), and the top 50 in points (1,117) while playing just two seasons at Kentucky — is not the Wildcats’ only potential departure. John Calipari’s 2023-24 team has plenty of moving parts, and Tshiebwe is the latest — a big one.
Oscar Tshiebwe has declared for the NBA Draft while retaining his college eligibility.
Will be interesting to see how Calipari and company operate with this news.
Will they get aggressive finding front court help in the portal or wait it out?
May 31 is the deadline.
— Aaron Gershon (@agershon99) April 7, 2023
Kentucky’s roster construction could be in limbo while waiting for Tshiebwe, as Calipari enters another crucial one. Calipari offered plenty of praise to him after his announcement.
Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe announced he will enter the NBA Draft while maintaining his college eligibility.
“Tshiebwe’s Kentucky career — and even his decision now — is a strange and complicated thing,” writes @KyleTucker_ATH.https://t.co/z8RD1YELMd
— The Athletic CBB (@TheAthleticCBB) April 8, 2023
“Oscar fulfilled one dream by being a Kentucky basketball player, but he’s ready to chase this next dream,” Calipari said. “There is no player in that league like Oscar. He’s also an ideal player to have in your locker room because he will truly care about his teammates, the organization and the community. I’m excited for Oscar to go through this process to see if it’s his time to live out his ultimate goal.”
Could Oscar Tshiebwe be coming back for Kentucky basketball again? https://t.co/cSKr7jkpHX
— Locked On Sports (@lockedonsports) April 8, 2023
The 2023-24 season is the last season in which players in college before the 2020-21 season that was impacted by the pandemic can play an additional season. What is Kentucky’s ceiling with him on the roster next year?
Oscar will test the waters. Leaves the door open to a return, which I believe is legitimately on the table. https://t.co/MbKz9f3hmE
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) April 7, 2023
A Tshiebwe return would obviously be a big deal for Kentucky, as the Wildcats aim to get back to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. With him for the past two seasons, though, UK has not been able to reach the Sweet 16 — a problem that delves deeper than him but must be taken into account while weighing the impact of his departure and where it leaves Calipari’s team.
With that said, I don’t believe a return is likely. Hence why UK reached out to Dickinson.
Given the lack of rim protection/interior defense, Micah Handlogten (Marshall), Kadin Shedrick (Virginia), & Daniel Batcho (Texas Tech) are the best options available, in that order IMO.
— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) April 7, 2023
Could Kentucky have tipped its hand here in reaching out to the star Michigan transfer? It is certainly possible.