Pastures new and blue: Oscar Tshiebwe ready to make his mark in Lexington


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) fights off a defender while shooting the ball during the UK vs. Wesleyan exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 95-72. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

From Morgantown to Lexington, Oscar Tshiebwe’s lovable energy has transitioned well from West Virginia to Kentucky. 

Following Tshiebwe’s impressive performances in Kentucky’s Blue-White game and the Cats’ first exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan, the six-foot-nine, 255-pound forward from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is already making an impact at his new home in the Bluegrass.

“I’m coming to do my best,” Tshiebwe told the media on Oct. 20.

Tshiebwe comes to Kentucky following one season with the West Virginia Mountaineers, where he averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 31 starts as a freshman. 

“Oscar was definitely a fan favorite,” said Charles Montgomery, sports editor of The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student newspaper. “He brought a lot of energy to the court, and people were always excited to watch him play. He changed games when he was on the floor.”

In his sophomore year, Tshiebwe made the decision to transfer to Kentucky but was ineligible to play last season due to NCAA transfer rules.  

Despite Tshiebwe’s excellent freshman season, something didn’t click for the big man in Morgantown.

“I think during the offseason in 2020, Tshiebwe lost a drive in him,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think he was dedicated to listening and learning from coach [Bob] Huggins, which led to him leaving the team.”

Regardless of what went right or wrong for Tshiebwe at WVU, he knows that things happen for a reason, and he’s now found a home in Lexington. 

“I felt like [West Virginia] was a place God didn’t want me to be for a long time,” Tshiebwe said. “I’m in a good place now and I’m thankful.”

Tshiebwe began practicing with the Cats in February 2021. With over seven months of waiting to get a real game under his belt, Tshiebwe has used that time as motivation to contribute to his game and his team as the regular season approaches.

“It really hurts when I sit on the bench and I can’t help,” Tshiebwe said. “I kept thinking that I cannot wait to come back so I can help this team and I know I bring energy, so I helped motivate them as best I could.”

Tshiebwe brought plenty of energy in his on-court debut for Kentucky, dominating his teammates in UK’s annual Blue-White game.

Recording 25 points and 21 rebounds in 40 minutes of play, Tshiebwe’s Blue team defeated the White team, 108-80.

“Did you see how hard he plays, how fast he runs?” head coach John Calipari said.

Tshiebwe’s point and rebound totals were both good for highest on the team in the scrimmage. 

“There’s nothing easy that can be given to you,” Tshiebwe said.

Returning sophomore Lance Ware was on the other end of Tshiebwe’s lights out performance. 

Ware knows that practicing and scrimmaging with and against his new teammate is only going to be beneficial to both players in the long run.

“Being out there with [Tshiebwe,] he’s elevated me as a player,” Ware said. “I’m thankful for it, I’m trying to elevate him as a player, play just as hard as him and compete.” 

Tshiebwe’s presence is paying off early, as his teammates’ confidence is already increasing.

“I know, as long as Oscar is underneath the rim, anything we put up, if we don’t make it, I know we still have an opportunity,” freshman point guard TyTy Washington said.  

Tshiebwe played just 17 minutes in UK’s exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan, but still recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The road to Kentucky for Tshiebwe was not straight and narrow, but the 21-year-old isn’t looking back as he officially begins a new chapter in his basketball career.

“You have to be focused on one thing if you really want to be a champion and not focus on anything in the past,” Tshiebwe said. “You have to keep moving forward and get better every day.”