Kentucky Basketball: Oscar Tshiebwe named Sporting News Player of the Year

Oscar Tshiebwe of the Kentucky Wildcats . (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Oscar Tshiebwe of the Kentucky Wildcats . (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The accolades during the regular season for Kentucky basketball big man Oscar Tshiewbe have been plentiful but the big-time awards come now and Sporting News has named him their National Player of the Year.

Tschiewbe, who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has endeared himself to Big Blue Nation and easily could go down as one of the most loved players of all time in just one season on the court.

He is just the second Wildcat to ever win the award that dates back to 1943 with Anthony Davis in 2012 being the other.

Big O is currently leading the Wildcats in points per game (17.3), rebounds per game (15.3), steals per game (1.9), blocks per game (1.5) and field-goal percentage with a minimum of 100 attempts (60.6%). Since the 1978-79 season, only one Wildcat has led the team in those five categories (minimum 130 field-goal attempts) in a single season – Davis in 2011-12.

Kentucky basketball big man Oscar Tshiebwe earns Player of the Year

He transferred to Kentucky midway through the 2020-21 season and had to sit out the spring of last season. He worked hard and soaked up everything Coach John Calipari and his assistants could throw at him.

We watched him before games on the floor knowing full well he couldn’t play working on his footwork and moves while the other players around him got ready for action. He spent hours and hours in the practice gym, pestered coaches for advice and I am sure grabbed anyone who will willing to work out or shag balls in the gym.

His work ethic, positive attitude, and smile are so contagious there surely can’t be anyone who doesn’t benefit from them just being around them.

We all know about Tshiebwe but he told the Sporting News just what it takes for he and this team to be successful and how it can reach its ultimate goal.

"“We have a great chance to win all things. I just want everybody to sacrifice, because if you really want something good to happen, you have to sacrifice. We’ve to got to give everything. How long does it take, two weeks, March Madness? If you’re not willing to fight to help this team, fight with everything you’ve got, you’re never going to forget it.”"

That list also must include all the great Kentucky players that held records that Tshiebwe has already shattered or is on the cusp of doing so.

Tshiebwe is a double-double machine and currently is riding a streak of 13 consecutive double-doubles, the longest streak since complete game-by-game rebounding records were kept dating back to 1969.

For the year he has 25 double-doubles and trails only Dan Issel who has the record with 26 in 1969-70. Thinking all-time in the NCAA – he trails Navy’s David Robinson’s single-season record of 31 by just six which was set in 1985-86.

With 474 rebounds snared for the year, Tshiebwe ranks third-most in one season in UK history.  A pair of greats stand just ahead with more than 500 in a season (Bill Spivey — 567 in 1951 and Hagan — 528 in 1952).

The big man is active all over the court being the only major conference player averaging at least 1.5 blocked shots and 1.5 steals per game.

Should Kentucky reach the NCAA Championship game by winning the SEC he has 9 potential games to add to his amazing single-season accomplishments.

There are several other Player of the Year awards that will be unveiled in the next month and if Tshiebwe’s name isn’t on that trophy it would be a huge shock given all he has already done.

The major honors he’s won so far include:

Sporting News National Player of the Year
Sporting News First-Team All-America
Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (coaches/media)
All-SEC First Team (coaches/media)
All-SEC Defensive Team (coaches)
Sports Illustrated First-Team All-American
The Field of 68 National Player of the Year
The Field of 68 First-Team All-America
College Hoops Today National Player of the Year
USA Today SEC Player of the Year
USA Today First-Team All-SEC unanimous selection
John R. Wooden Award finalist
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Final Five
Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist

We will next see him on Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Tampa. Kentucky is the No. 3 seed so tune in a watch history as it continues to unfold.