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Former Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe named NBA G League Rookie of the Year

Jack Weaver
Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) celebrates between plays during the Kentucky vs. Texas A&M men’s basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 76-67. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Former Kentucky men’s basketball star Oscar Tshiebwe was named the NBA G League Rookie of the Year on Tuesday.

Tshiebwe, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, came to Kentucky as a West Virginia transfer and immediately made a name for himself in Lexington.

“Big O” averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game, an average of a double double, and became Kentucky’s first ever consensus National Player of the Year. He was also the first Kentucky National Player of the Year since Anthony Davis.

Returning for a second season after Kentucky’s shocking first round NCAA Tournament loss to Saint Peter’s, Tshiebwe was once again “the guy” in Lexington, finishing the season with 16.5 points and 13.7 rebounds, another averaged double double, after recovering from surgery in the offseason.

While the NCAA Tournament success never properly flowed for the rebounding machine, his efforts in college saw him sign a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers of the NBA, meaning he would be signed to both the Pacers’ first team and their G League affiliate, the Indiana Mad Ants.

It didn’t take long for Tshiebwe to begin making headlines in the pros either, with reports surfacing that the former National Player of the Year did it all with poor vision as he finally underwent eye tests proving he needed visual aids.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) reacts to a call during the No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Kansas State mens basketball game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 19, 2023, at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kansas State won 75-69. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

With a new pair of goggles, Tshiebwe made history in his debut, racking up a staggering 33 points and 23 rebounds, the first ever 30-20 game in franchise history, with his 23 boards, 13 of which were offensive rebounds, being one shy of the all-time Mad Ants record.

With the record so close, it wasn’t shocking to many that the former Cat shattered it, notching 28 rebounds.

With so much success so early, the big man was quickly called up to the NBA where he played in his first “big league” game after former Maryland Terrapin Jalen Smith suffered an injury. Tshiebwe made his first ever NBA basket in December before rejoining the Mad Ants.

Continuing to be a key piece for Indiana, averaging 16.2 rebounds per game — a G League record — Tshiebwe was eventually named Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, with the award seeking to honor first-year professionals who most significantly contribute to their team’s success.

With so much success in just one season, it seems the future is bright for “Big O” in the pros. The Mad Ants earned a No. 3 seed in the G League Playoffs after finishing third in the Eastern Conference and will face off against the reigning league champions the Delaware Blue Coats, an affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers.

If the Mad Ants are victorious they’ll earn a date with the No. 2 seed Maine Celtics, an affiliate of the Boston Celtics.

Tip-off between the Mad Ants and Blue Coats is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 2. It will air live on ESPNews.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor
Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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