Fall 2022

Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe sweeps player of the year awards: 'I thank God for this moment'

Kentucky’s star forward Oscar Tshiebwe dominated college basketball in 2021-22, and on Tuesday night the junior was recognized for it once again by becoming the recipient of this season’s Wooden Award as the best player in men’s college basketball.

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The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe, who led the country by averaging 15.1 rebounds per game (to go along with his 17.4 points per game on 60.6% shooting), has now officially swept the six postseason player of the year awards. The Wooden Award was the last to be announced.

“I’m very excited and I’m very grateful,” a smiling Tshiebwe said Tuesday after being announced as the winner of the award on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “I thank God for this moment in my life.”

Tshiebwe won the Naismith Award on Sunday at the Final Four in New Orleans, the day between Saturday’s semifinal matchups and Monday’s national championship game.

Thanks in large part to Tshiebwe’s dominance, many basketball experts predicted Kentucky to be one of the four teams playing for a title in New Orleans when the bracket was released. However, the Wildcats’ season ended in disappointment after losing 85-79 in overtime to No. 15-seed Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Tshiebwe was still a bright spot against the Peacocks, recording 30 points and 16 rebounds for his 16th consecutive double-double (the longest streak in Kentucky history). His 28 double-doubles this season were a program record.

The 2021-22 campaign was Tshiebwe’s first in Kentucky blue after transferring from West Virginia. The Congolese big man, who only started playing basketball eight years ago and came to the United States six years ago, now has a decision to make: follow in the footsteps of his mentor Bismack Biyombo and enter June’s NBA draft, or return to Lexington for another chance at a title.

“I am praying about my decision,” Tshiebwe said on “SportsCenter.” “I have a big decision to make but I believe that the God I trust is going to help me, and God has put good people around me.”

Tshiebwe is extremely vocal about his faith in Christ on Twitter and Instagram and in interviews, and he has humbly handed over life’s biggest decisions to his Lord and Savior. “Pray more worry less, real help comes from God,” reads his Twitter bio.

“I truly believe in God,” Tshiebwe said a year ago, “and God makes most of the decisions for my life because I pray for it and I listen to what God is telling me to do, and I make my decision.”

 

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He even preaches about faith in Christ. A day after returning from a loss at Arkansas earlier this season, Tshiebwe took the stage at Broadway Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, to share about Christ. Wearing a hoodie that read “Seek Jesus,” the 22-year-old shared a message from Daniel 3 in the Bible.

“We don’t need to fight for eternal life with God. It is a free gift from Christ. We already believe,” he said. “Lots of people say you have to do this or you have to do this to enter the Kingdom of God — no. We just need to believe and trust in God. We have to surrender ourselves to God. We have to obey His Word.”

Tshiebwe will seek to remain an outspoken follower of Christ as his name becomes increasingly recognizable in the basketball world and beyond, whether that’s in the NBA or in college. Regardless, he says he considers it a blessing wherever basketball takes him.

“For me, being in this place, it is a blessing,” he said last April. “It is hard work and believing in God because the best gifts always come from God.”

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