Does Kentucky’s loss to Saint Peter’s make Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision any easier?


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) cries while walking off the court after the UK vs. Saint Peter’s mens basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Gainbridge Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. UK lost 85-79 in overtime. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

INDIANAPOLIS—Oscar Tshiebwe doesn’t know if Thursday night was his final time suiting up in a Kentucky uniform. Neither does John Calipari. 

“He and I will sit down in the next day or two to figure out what path is for him,” Calipari said.

If making a return to Lexington for his senior season was even in the cards, Kentucky’s sour exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament may propel Tshiebwe towards running it back in blue and white once again. 

All the West Virginia transfer did for Kentucky this season was fight. That’s all he said he was going to do, after all.

Even after his stellar season was cut short by Saint Peter’s, putting up a fight was the only thing on his mind: 

“I even told my teammates, this is not going to be easy for us. If we don’t — if we are not willing to fight, any team in March Madness, they make it for a reason,” he said. “So we’ve got to be locked in. We’ve got to be ready to go. So I think everybody tried and did their best they could.” 

A consensus First Team All-American and frontrunner for National Player of the Year, Tshiebwe fought his way to history in a Kentucky uniform, breaking numerous records and earning a bulk of awards and nominations. 

He became the first player to average over 15 points and 15 rebounds per game in a season in 40 years. A stat of such magnitude would usually point that person towards the NBA. 

Tshiebwe is in quite the unusual position, however. 

Sure, the gateway to the pro’s is wide open, but the connection between he and Kentucky runs deep, even if it only begun this season. The bond built with his teammates, the charismatic fanbase that loves his every move, the NIL deals that roll in by the bucket load, UK offers more than just playing for the name on the jersey. 

Toss in the possibility of his mother being able to watch him play in front of a place he knows and loves, and why wouldn’t he want to give it another go in the Bluegrass? 

Despite scoring 30 points and notching 16 rebounds, Tshiebwe’s dominance couldn’t carry the Cats past Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks took Kentucky’s aspirations for a ninth national championship and threw it in the White River. 

Thursday night was long overdue for Tshiebwe, yet his experience in the big dance was ripped away in excruciating fashion, rendering him emotional on the court after the final buzzer. 

“It is sad because I’ve been wanting this moment for a long time. I’m a junior and this is three years in college and this is my first March Madness,” he said. “I did the best I could. It just happens sometimes like that.” 

What Tshiebwe has accomplished in college doesn’t just happen sometimes. It almost never happens. He is a generational talent with a flair for winning over the hearts of the college basketball world. 

If he is to return to Kentucky for one more season, he will be showered with applause and praise from Big Blue Nation. If he goes pro, nothing will change. 

Tshiebwe got that sweet taste of what it’s like to play in March. Unfortunately for him, that small taste was gone in a flash. 

We’ll soon find out if the big man was left wanting more, or if he’ll make up for the early exit with the satisfying smell of NBA money, crafting him a path to stardom on the pro-level. 

The window for declaring for the NBA draft will close on April 24, with the draft itself set for June 23.