Summer 2022

Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returning to Kentucky: 'God's not done with me in this place'

Consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe is coming back for a second season at Kentucky. He made the announcement during a “SportsCenter” appearance on Wednesday afternoon.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Tshiebwe pointed to his faith as the driving force behind his decision to stay in college another year instead of entering the NBA draft, where he would have likely been taken in the second round.

“I pray for it and I ask God what is good for me,” Tshiebwe said. “So we’ve been fasting and praying with my family … I ask God, ‘I became national player of the year, but why is my name not in the first round?’ I always wanted to be a lottery pick — top 10, top 15 — but I ask God, ‘Why I’m not there yet?’ So God has told me He’s not done with me yet. He told me He wants me to go back and just work, because He’s not done with me in this place.”

The 6-foot-9 native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the first national player of the year to return to school since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in 2008.

Tshiebwe transferred from West Virginia to Kentucky in the middle of the 2020-21 season but was not eligible to play for the Wildcats until this past season. He wasted no time making an impact, scoring 17 points and pulling down 20 rebounds against Duke in his first game.

His 17.4 points per game led the team and his 15.1 rebounds per game were far and away the most in the country. Kentucky finished the season with a 28-6 record and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

What was expected to be a deep tournament run ended prematurely when 15-seed Saint Peter’s knocked off the Wildcats in overtime in the round of 64. Tshiebwe had 30 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. It was the first time in program history a player produced at least 30 points and grabbed at least 15 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.

After winning the Wooden Award to complete a sweep of the six player of the year honors, Tshiebwe gave glory to God.

“I’m very excited and I’m very grateful,” he said then on “SportsCenter.” “I thank God for this moment in my life.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Big O (@oscar_tshiebwe)

His faith has long been at the center of his life and was shaped in large part by his father, who was a pastor and died after being poisoned when Tshiebwe was 12. The traumatic experience taught Oscar to always lean on God.

“I was mad at God,” Tshiebwe recently told Laker Country. “My daddy was helping people and God took him. But I kept talking to God and my father told me to never lose God right before he passed. I never forgot that. I always remember him telling me when you give everything to God, He is going to help you. My dad said if you lose God, you lose everything. That’s why my dad is my hero.”

In February, he carried on his father’s legacy by delivering a sermon at Broadway Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. His message was focused on Daniel 3:

“We don’t need to fight for eternal life with God. It is a free gift from Christ. We already believe,” Tshiebwe said during the sermon. “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.”

The return of one of the sport’s most dominant players cements Kentucky as one of the favorites entering next season. If all goes to plan, Tshiebwe will improve his draft stock and end his college career the same way Hansbrough did: with a national championship.

RELATED STORIES:
— Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe sweeps POY awards: ‘I thank God for this moment’
— Faith-driven Oscar Tshiebwe is consensus All-American, but Kentucky falls in major upset
— Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe preaches in church day after career night on the court
Oscar Tshiebwe, nation’s leading rebounder, thankful for God’s guidance to Kentucky