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What does Oscar Tshiebwe’s commitment mean for Kentucky?

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)


(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Kentucky has secured a commitment from the top available transfer prospect in the nation, as West Virginia center Oscar Tshiebwe has announced he will play for John Calipari in Lexington for the 2021-22 season.

Tshiebwe, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound center originally out of the Congo, chose the Wildcats over offers and interest from Illinois, North Carolina State, Miami (FL) and Tennessee, among others.

“I am grateful for the time I spent at West Virginia, and the lessons that I learned,” Tshiebwe wrote on his social media pages. “I’ve spent a lot of time praying to God to help me make the best decision for my future. I am excited for this new chapter of my life. I will continue my career at the University of Kentucky.”

But what does the newest Wildcat’s addition mean for the program?

Immediate practice player

Before worrying about Tshiebwe can and will do for the team next year, it’s important to note that the talented transfer is planning on enrolling for the second semester and will be heading to Lexington immediately. While he will not be eligible to play for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, he will, however, be allowed to practice with the team and work with the team’s strength and conditioning program right away.

This means the likes of Olivier Sarr, Keion Brooks Jr., Isaiah Jackson, Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin will be able to go up against Tshiebwe – an absolute tank of a man – every day in practice, helping the current group prepare for strong, physical players in the frontcourt the team will continue to see throughout conference play.

Kentucky is already deep on scholarship players – 11 now with Brooks back in the rotation – but Tshiebwe’s addition will ensure Calipari will no longer need to worry about having enough bodies to scrimmage in practice. Now, he has extras.

Junkyard dog in the paint

As for Tshiebwe’s on-court presence once he’s declared eligible in 2021-22, it’s fairly clear what Kentucky is getting: a strong, physical workhorse with an endless motor.

Standing 6-foot-9, 260 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Tshiebwe already has an NBA-ready body. He’s an anchor in the frontcourt, both literally and figuratively. But the reason there was so much excitement about the former five-star prospect out of high school was that he simply outworked everyone on the floor, and that has remained his staple in his time at West Virginia. Whether it be diving for loose balls, fighting for tough rebounds, or running ahead of the competition on fast breaks, Tshiebwe is outworked by no one.

This quote from the former Mountaineer center says it all:

“I’m a machine,” Tshiebwe said in West Virginia’s Life as a Mountaineer video series. “The way I play, most people we play against, they ask me the same question during games. “Bro, how do you not get tired?” I say, “I do get tired, but I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.”

Tshiebwe remains a bit raw on the offensive end – he’s relatively new to the sport – but he makes up for it by doing the dirty work on both ends of the floor. There is a reason he nearly averaged a double-double – 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game – as a freshman, after all.

Next year’s frontcourt may be complete

Just like that, Kentucky’s frontcourt for next season looks pretty loaded.

We’re not sure what will happen with Keion Brooks Jr. in terms of his NBA Draft decision, and Olivier Sarr (graduation) and Isaiah Jackson (NBA Draft) could both leave the program, but the expectation is that Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware are both back next season and Kentucky has already signed five-star center Daimion Collins and four-star forward Bryce Hopkins in the class of 2021.

With Tshiebwe officially added to the picture, space is already limited in UK’s frontcourt, and that’s a good thing. There isn’t a glaring hole down low as it stands with the five likely pieces in Tshiebwe, Toppin, Ware, Collins and Hopkins, and if either Brooks or Jackson return, the sky is the limit down low.

It’s not often you can solidify one a top-tier frontcourt a whole year in advance, but Calipari has done just that by adding Tshiebwe to the mix.

Someone who wants to be at Kentucky

Beyond what he brings to the table as a player, Tshiebwe is someone who has loved the Kentucky basketball program since he was in high school. As a recruit, Tshiebwe had deep ties to the West Virginia program that made it a near certainty that he would wind up in Morgantown, regardless of who came calling.

But make no mistake about it, Tshiebwe liked what Calipari and the UK program had to offer the first time around.

“It was a hard decision because I like Kentucky and I love Coach Calipari,” Tshiebwe told KSR at the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2019. “But I ended up at West Virginia because it’s a school I used to think about (growing up). I like the way they play, I like the coach, I like the program. That’s why I ended up going there.”

Had he not signed with the Mountaineers, Tshiebwe told KSR he was headed to Lexington.

“Coach Calipari was telling me, “I want to coach you! Come play for me! I’m going to coach you and help you become a great player. I’ll help you reach your dreams. … Kentucky was second.”

Two years later, Tshiebwe is finally a Kentucky Wildcat.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

25 Comments for What does Oscar Tshiebwe’s commitment mean for Kentucky?

  1. Cletis75
    8:02 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    As a Marine veteran, and someone with multiple highly decorated service members in my family, it used to bother me that people kneeled. I was raised that standing for the anthem was a way to show your appreciation for those that sacrificed their lives, limbs and mental health to preserve our freedoms and lives. For me to expect everyone else to have my views is crazy. A lot of people weren’t raised the way I was. If they were raised to believe that the anthem symbolizes something different to them, that’s fine by me. As long as they don’t try to take away my freedom to stand and honor my beliefs in the anthem. People only know what they are taught and experience. I wish everyone could be a little more free and a little less self important.

    • Papaw
      8:46 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Well said sir and thank you for your service

    • ukkatzfan
      9:00 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Hats off to you. Guess Uk just needed to get rid of some haters prior to 9 this year and 10 next. Cause it looked like final 4 last night

    • ClutchCargo
      9:07 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Hell, it even bugs me when people don’t take their hats off for the anthem. But Cletis, you have a great attitude, one that most of us need to learn.

    • CrystalBall
      11:10 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Cletis75. Good comment and most would agree with you. Including me. Think most have a
      problem with it being done in public, at a sporting event, while wearing a UK uniform. Which
      is different than doing it in a shopping center parking lot while wearing you own casual

    • blueballs80
      11:56 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Cletis as a Marine, I hope you were outraged by what went on at Capitol Hill. Kneeling is an expression for pain that people are peacefully demonstrating for.

    • UKFanSC
      7:10 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

      Excellent post, thank you for your service.

  2. UKgrad80
    8:09 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    He might hurt our players in practice he is a big nan!

  3. blueblood80
    8:33 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    As I recall, Sarr would make Big Blue “top 5” or Final 4. Now we’ll be top 3 and play for a Championship!

  4. UKinIN
    9:28 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    Jack, any information on why Tshiebwe decided to leave WVA? On the surface it looks like he didn’t like his reduced playing time? If that’s the case UK doesn’t look like the right fit because Calipari doesn’t promise playing time.

    • GymRat
      10:16 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      Looking like a very crowded front court next year..

  5. IndianaSucks
    11:21 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    I don’t think KSR will take ANY calls during tomorrow’s show if they’re going to keep turning off comments on their hotbutton articles lol

  6. ukfanok
    11:23 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

    I believe Fletcher will be the odd man out especially if Brooks and Jackson return.

    • GymRat
      11:25 pm January 10, 2021 Permalink

      If Brooks and Jackson both return there are going to be more odd men out than that.

  7. just a guy
    12:58 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    I bet he never plays here. Will come here, use the facilities, practice with the team, then go through the combine. If he’s not drafted then he’ll come back and play; Diallo part deuce

    • kentuckybackupplayer
      8:58 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

      he is far from NBA ready. does not mean he won’t play next year, but offensively he needs a ton of work and he also has to learn how to defend out to the three point line before he gets a high draft rating.

    • IndianaSucks
      10:17 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

      How many UK players have left before they were ready over the past decade? I wouldn’t be shocked.

  8. TBW3011
    1:41 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    Why a question in the header? We allowed to state our opinions on this one?

  9. UKFanSC
    7:17 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    Assuming he actually plays for us next season, it ensures we will have plenty of minutes to go around on the front line. Damien Collins, Toppin, Ware, possibly Jackson will all be back. A very solid group. Maybe the nations best. The backcourt will be extremely stacked as well, setting us up for a very strong run at a title next year.

  10. millertim
    8:24 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    Great job Coach Cal!! This was a TREMENDOUS pickup for the CATS for both this year and next!!

  11. kykid16
    9:03 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    I disagree with burning UK shirts, not every player that has played at UK kneeled! Burn pictures of this team or of coach Cal but not our university!

    • stl_cat
      12:04 pm January 11, 2021 Permalink

      Or Option C, be an adult and don’t burn anything

  12. BlueGrassBrass
    10:14 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. When civil servants use their office or their notoriety to brunt or shame a citizen or group for being an activist for human rights, that just wrong. When we cant peacefully protest the actions of those civil servants without the government officials lashing out with public broadcasts of what they intend to do is shame the activists we become a nation of tyrannical rule.
    If you, Jamie Mosley or John Root can not perform your duties without shaming members of the public you both should out of respect for the the United States constitution, the Commonwealth, and the citizens you serve, resign.

  13. peaches76
    11:10 am January 11, 2021 Permalink

    I’m sorry, but Jackson to the NBA? Based on…?

    • 8 god
      5:58 pm January 11, 2021 Permalink

      Per minute he’s been our best player