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Oscar Tshiebwe has been a “great addition” in practice, anchoring bench unit

Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe has only been eligible to practice at Kentucky for one week, but he’s already making his presence known on the floor.

Despite not being eligible for game competition until the 2021-22 season, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound center is allowed to practice and train with the team, giving Kentucky added flexibility when it comes to scrimmaging and drills.

With Tshiebwe now in the fold, John Calipari is now rotating the team’s top seven core players in scrimmages against the team’s role players, allowing the bottom of the roster to develop while the top gets solid practice reps. It’s an added wrinkle Calipari has rarely had the pieces to utilize.

“He made the halfcourt shot for Vandy (at the shootaround), so that helped us win that game [laughs],” Calipari said of Tshiebwe on his call-in radio show Monday evening. “He gives you a presence. And here’s the other thing I’m doing. Now, we have a unit, we’ll have seven guys on one team getting those minutes, but that other group now becomes ‘Big Oscar,’ where you’ve got size, you’ve got Cam Fletcher, you still have Dontaie (Allen) shooting balls, still have Lance (Ware) being physical and doing his thing.

“All of a sudden, that group gets great work because they’re playing against those seven. I’ve done that at times, but I’ve never had enough guys to really do that. Normally it’s just the first five and the second five. This has been good and he has been a great addition.”

Speaking of that top seven, Calipari confirmed that he has officially cut his rotation down to seven players as the team plays its final regular season games and heads into the SEC Tournament, a move that has been in the works since Kentucky’s loss to Arkansas on Feb. 9 when Dontaie Allen and Lance Ware both dipped below ten total minutes. Since that point, no bench player outside of Jacob Toppin and Keion Brooks Jr. has received more than nine minutes in a game, with Allen, Ware and Fletcher combining for just two minutes in UK’s win at Tennessee on Saturday.

Moving forward, Calipari is planning on playing Devin Askew, Davion Mintz, BJ Boston, Isaiah Jackson, Olivier Sarr, Toppin and Brooks.

“I always say, “Look, I’m with these guys every day.” What I’ve done, now, is go to a seven-man rotation. That’s what we’re doing,” Calipari said. “If you’d have been in our practices, you’d know, “Yeah, those are our seven.” I sat down with the other guys and said, “There could be foul trouble, there could be injuries, awful play, something that gives you a chance. You must be ready for your opportunity.” I said, “Let’s say you’re lucky enough to be a professional some day.” I looked around the room, “Guys, you’re going to be the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th man on a roster, and you’re going to get DNP – did not play – and they’re going to shove you in and you’re going to go 0-5 with two airballs, look weak, and can’t guard anybody.” You know what they’re going to say? “Who the heck drafted this guy?” And then you’re done.

“You have to be ready for your opportunity, and that’s what those guys coming off the bench will do. We’re got a nice group that’s clicking pretty good.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

17 Comments for Oscar Tshiebwe has been a “great addition” in practice, anchoring bench unit

  1. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    12:56 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

    I mean wouldn’t this make you think if I’m a Kentucky boy and I go here he’ll find a reason to bench me.

    • GM1978
      4:25 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

      If you can’t play enough defense to stay on the floor, most coaches would…

    • Alex90
      6:49 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

      So the answer is yes. We saw enough from Allen to prove he can be a valuable piece but unfortunately Cal doesn’t understand how to utilize shooters in his “offense”.

    • BlueSteel
      8:44 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

      No… it would tell me that if I competed and played well that I would earn playing time not just given it because I was a “Kentucky boy”.

  2. millertim
    7:45 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

    Horrible message to send to the rest of the team— you’re of ZERO value moving forward! If you get any minutes its basically b/c I HAVE to play you— HORRIBLE MESSAGE!! Now I really worry there will be mass exodus from this team next year…

    • WKY Cat
      10:44 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

      It’s not hard to understand why the
      non-chosen ones transfer. Cal always has his favorites and it doesn’t matter of their ability.

    • BlueSteel
      11:57 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

      Every team – At pretty much any level – shrinks their rotation this time of year.

    • millertim
      1:52 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

      Yes, I know that but losing teams usually don’t b/c its not yet decided who the best 7-8 players are… we are 8-13 with little to no chance of playing in the post season and you have a coach that thinks he’s playing for a high seed in a post-season tourney…

    • BlueSteel
      3:54 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

      Yeah I know our record sucks… But actually I think he’s just trying to give the team the best chance to win the SEC tournament. Although they have definitely underperformed they are talented enough to win it.

  3. kjd
    8:28 am February 23, 2021 Permalink

    More blah, blah, blah from Cal.

  4. Megan
    1:22 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

    The hostility of some fans is just sad. Mad at the world, I imagine. I doubt it’s confined to college basketball. Why do they bother watching the games and keeping up on stories if it only upsets them, if they have only bad things to say? So they can vent their anger. Must get off on it. Grievance fans. We just had arguably the best game of the year, appear to be on a roll at the right time, and these guys are still at it. What a miserable existence. And they’ve got to make it miserable for everyone else.

    Here’s an idea. Go watch Apocalypse: WWI on AHC, a wonderful 5-part series on WWI. Wall-to-wall colorized film, well-told. Watch the first hour if nothing else, which attempts to explain the causes of the War to End All Wars (historians still haven’t reached a consensus). It’ll take your mind off teenagers playing a game and maybe satisfy your craving for conflict. Seriously, it’s so well done. History caught on film. Home movies of historical figures from the early 1900s. Maybe turn your attention to something like that. Learn something in the process. Do you know who shot Archduke Ferdinand? Didn’t think so. Too busy disparaging Cal. Well, at least look it up and pretend that you did.

    I’ve thrown a rock into the pack of dogs. Let’s see who’s the first to yelp. (a trick that Cal taught us)

  5. ClutchCargo
    1:51 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

    As stated above, this is not a new thing for UK or most any other basketball team this time of year. The team seems to be hitting its stride now that the rotation is pretty much set.

  6. millertim
    2:01 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

    Always amazed at the Cal apologists who seem to think ANY criticism of a LOSING season is not only unmerited but wholly unfair to the coach— the one most responsible for the team!! UK has the greatest history and winning tradition and so many of us aren’t “comfortable” with a losing record and likely a team that won’t get invited to NCAA tourney where most of us measure the success of a season. Cal apologists must be okay with losing and attacking those of us don’t accept it! Cal made a number of mistakes before the season started and looked lost and confused throughout the season. I stated during that time that the team would eventually start winning, not b/c of the coach but b/c they are good players and will naturally improve. My fear was that once we started winning again, Cal would credit his “method” and “style” for the “turn around” and it appears many of the Cal apologists are easily falling into that trap…

    • ClutchCargo
      3:01 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

      Then there is a LARGE segment of the fan base (myself included) that is not a little bit okay with the way this season has gone, and how Cal has contributed to it, but don’t feel the need to keep beating a dead horse. And I even agree with about 95% of the points you make. Some people just need to lighten up a little, is all.

    • millertim
      3:55 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

      Fair enough

  7. bbnZach
    2:56 pm February 23, 2021 Permalink

    This choker Calapari plays devin askew more than our best shooter dontaie allen! He will be transferring this summer smh. Oh and don’t forget coach K will beat us by 50 again in November good job Cal thanks for the one ring time to move on best for both sides.

  8. wills
    2:31 am February 24, 2021 Permalink

    ..askew is pitiful ball handler donataie is not consistent cannot play defense why are many trying to make him a best shooter? Sarr, Cam, Dontaei, Askew should ask coach Cal for transfer to Division III and especially Sarr 7ft who gets his shot block now when was a young player at UK with that ability got his shot blocked…Sarr is weak and has no game …. all the bench warmers need to go they are an embarrassment