There’s a familiar name on the list of Sporting News All-Americans for the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season. Oscar Tshiebwe, a senior center for the Kentucky Wildcats, was named to the third team on Tuesday.
The selection comes a year after Tshiebwe swept all the National Player of the Year awards and led his team to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Not since Tayshaun Prince in 2001 and 2002 has any Kentucky player been named a two-time All-American.
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Tshiebwe averaged 16.4 points and led the country with 13.1 rebounds per game while shooting 56.4% this season. He was also a unanimous first-team All-SEC selection, and more honors are likely to follow.
All glory to God🙏🏽❤️ https://t.co/IrHuVG9BJb
— Big O (@Oscartshiebwe34) March 7, 2023
Tshiebwe transferred into the program before the start of last season after playing his first two years with West Virginia. Yet having suited up only 63 times in Kentucky blue, he already ranks eighth in program history with 894 rebounds. He’s also accumulated 46 double-doubles in those 63 games, which already ranks third in program history. A deep postseason run could launch him past Cotton Nash (48) into second.
Tshiebwe’s production helped a Wildcats team that was hovering on the NCAA Tournament bubble early in the season to one that is now ranked 23rd in the nation and a virtual lock to make the field. ESPN projects Kentucky as a No. 5 seed.
But before all the madness of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats (21-10) will head to Nashville for what should be an incredibly competitive SEC Tournament. Kentucky is the No. 3 seed and will begin play at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday against the winner of Vanderbilt and LSU.
A native of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tshiebwe has felt quite at home since arriving on campus and has captured the hearts of a basketball-crazed fanbase. He’s found his voice in Lexington, which for him means speaking openly about his faith in Christ.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,” Tshiebwe’s Twitter bio reads, quoting the Bible verse Philippians 3:14.
Start your day with God and invite him in your day🙏🏽♥️ pic.twitter.com/eOROCtyrT5
— Big O (@Oscartshiebwe34) January 27, 2022
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
. Matthew 13:41
— Big O (@Oscartshiebwe34) March 6, 2023
However, it’s not just on social media where Tshiebwe’s faith is on full display. He’s also talked about his faith in press conferences and on national television, and sometimes he’s even invited to preach at churches near the university.
Oscar Tshiebwe: "I never had a dream to be a National Player of the Year, I had a dream to be a leading rebounder." @Oscartshiebwe34's faith has taken him to levels he didn't envision. Several trophies later, he's made his mark at #Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/tMoirG96oj
— Mitch B (@MitchBTV_) February 28, 2023
I just want to thank pastor Daniel and the @BroadwayLex church for allowed me to share my faith with all the people in the church, it was a very special day for me♥️ pic.twitter.com/zFZ0uomRz8
— Big O (@Oscartshiebwe34) February 28, 2022
In the lead-up to this season, Tshiebwe was a guest on the Sports Spectrum Podcast and was featured in the Winter 2022 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine, where he opened up about his father. The elder Tshiebwe was a pastor back in the Congo, but he was poisoned to death when Oscar was 12. It was a dark time in Oscar’s life, but one God used for good.
“I was going through a lot,” he told Sports Spectrum. “I was trying to look for people’s help. I did not find helpful people, and I said, ‘If I can’t find no helpful people, where else can I find help?’ And I started reading the Bible and I found the answer (in Psalm 121): ‘Our help comes from the Lord, and everything you’re looking for comes from the Lord.’”
Tshiebwe’s faith has grown by leaps and bounds at Kentucky. He’s an active member of the university’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and has fallen under the mentorship of multiple ministry leaders in the area. They’ve all encouraged him to speak about his faith with boldness and conviction, even as it seems like all eyes are on him.
He has, and God has worked through him to bring others to Himself while also giving Tshiebwe a sense of immense joy.
“Every time I go and preach, there’s some people being saved,” he said. “Some people say, ‘Oscar, I just want to give my life to Jesus after hearing you preach. I just want to live a good life because I feel like I have not been doing right.’ … And I told him, ‘I don’t speak what I think is good for me. I only speak what the Holy Spirit has told me.’”
He continued later, “I can see myself up there after many years from today be a great public preacher speaking for God because I want people to be saved. … For me to help you is to give you the Word of life – the Word of God – that’s the Word that can save you and give peace to your soul.”
This weekend in Nashville will present another opportunity for Tshiebwe — to win his first SEC championship but more importantly to speak once more about his Lord and Savior.
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