What Oscar Tshiebwe returning means for Kentucky

Hunter Shelton

It’s been a long 34 days since Kentucky’s season was abruptly ended by Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

After the initial shock of the loss wore off, Big Blue Nation immediately turned its attention to the star of the team, Oscar Tshiebwe. The heartbroken West Virginia transfer just finished one of the best seasons in program history and was in the middle of receiving award after award. Usually what comes next is a week or two off, then the announcement that the national player of the year is headed to the NBA. 

Tshiebwe’s case turned out to be a bit different. The sweetheart rebounding machine’s decision wasn’t as easy as most, but he announced his decision to return to Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon.

“I prayed and asked God what is good for me. I’ve been fasting and praying with my family to try and ask God for a decision to help us,” Tshiebwe said on ESPN. “God has told me he is not done with me yet. So he told me he wants me to go back, because he is not done with me in this space. I’ll be back again next year in Kentucky.”

With the introduction of NIL, there was a clear path for the big man to return to school and cash in on brand deal after brand deal. This was an issue for him during the 2021-22 season due to his visa.

“As a student with an F1 visa, I can’t even talk about it,” Tshiebwe said about NIL. “It’s a little bit tricky.”

Anyone who has seen a video clip of Tshiebwe over the course of the year knows how likable and quoteworthy he is. He’s a man of faith who has his best interest out for everyone, and he also happens to be pretty good at basketball. 

His return will equal NIL deals in bulk, in the range of millions of dollars. There will be a line to get the soon-to-be senior in every local commercial around the Bluegrass. That doesn’t even mention the big name brands that will surely reach out. 

Everything that Tshiebwe accomplished over the course of the season pointed towards him making the jump to the professional level. He won just about everything there is to win as a collegiate basketball player, barring the elusive national championship. 

As the offseason got underway, the number of players entering the transfer portal increased, with over 1,000 players looking for new homes. There were rumors about what Tshiebwe was going to do, but he never gave a hint as to if he was staying or going. 

While he was undecided, some of the big name portal targets that the Wildcats had their eyes set on slowly made decisions to go elsewhere, leaving head coach John Calipari and UK in a bit of a bind. 

Tshiebwe, alongside highly touted freshman Shaedon Sharpe, were set to make or break the roster outlook for the 2022-23 Wildcats. While Sharpe remains undecided if he is going to go to the NBA Draft or not, BBN can exhale for a moment, knowing it has its superstar forward coming back for a second season.

“I was not sure if it was the right decision to do so we were still praying, praying, praying, but God, he told me I’ve got to make this decision so I just decided to announce today,” he said. 

Kentucky is instantly a powerhouse once again with the return of the NPOY. Alongside incoming freshman Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, the trio is set to cause problems for any opposing defense. 

Add in Sharpe with whoever else Calipari is able to pluck from the transfer portal, and the Cats are title contenders once again. 

There hasn’t been much positivity circling the program since the loss to the Peacocks in March, but Tshiebwe’s decision will turn the page into an offseason that will be filled with hope and confidence.