Oscar Tshiebwe: Crashing the boards, dominating the paint


Kenutcky men’s basketball player Oscar Tshiebwe signs autographs for fans during a summer camp at Joe Craft Center on June 29, 2021.

Barkley Truax

Kentucky’s big man is finally back in Lexington.

If you were wondering why Oscar Tshiebwe hasn’t been to any of the camps this summer, it’s because he took an extended vacation following the end of the Spring semester at UK to go visit his family in Congo, who he hasn’t seen for over six years. 

“The trip was good,” Tshiebwe said. “I’m glad I made it back … It was great to be back and see my family, my brothers and sisters.”

Because he has been away from the program this summer, the basketball world hasn’t been able to catch a glimpse of him since his time at West Virginia, which was over six months ago at this point. Despite being a Wildcat for half a year, many Kentucky fans haven’t seen his game for themselves.

Tshiebwe appeared in 10 games for the Mountaineers, averaging 8.5 points, 7.8 boards and boasted a 53 percent field goal percentage per outing last season. In his final game against Northwestern, he scored 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

He also recorded 14 points, securing nine boards against Gonzaga, which should be good news to Kentucky fans because Tshiebwe can get it done against elite competition. That experience is important as Kentucky has one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the country right now with Duke, Kansas, Michigan and others on the docket for the upcoming season.

As a freshman, the former McDonald’s All-American averaged 11 and 9 in 31 starts which earned him Big 12 Second-Team honors, led the country in offensive rebound percentage (19) and had a 16-12 double-double in a win over the then-No. 4 Baylor Bears.

“Rebounds can win the game and gives your team a second shot,” he said. “I fight a lot for rebounds because that’s what I do best. He continued, “Coach Calipari says, ‘Don’t ever forget what you do best. That’s the thing that’s going to get you to where you want to go.’”

The key stat is his offensive rebound percentage. With a team like John Calipari has put together with known shooters like Dontaie Allen, Kellan Grady, TyTy Washington and CJ Fredrick, getting those second chance buckets will be the difference between a win and a loss for Kentucky this upcoming season.

“I love a team that can shoot the ball a lot,” he said. “I know that if they make it, we celebrate; I know we win. If we miss [the shot], that’s my job so I have to go get the rebound.”

The Wildcats struggled last season with entry passes and getting the ball to Tshiebwe will be one of the biggest facets to Kentucky’s game this winter. He’s proven his dominance and now he’s in a position to take the ball and run with it against the best competition.