Kentucky Basketball: 3 reasons why Oscar Tshiebwe needs to return

Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

On Friday, Kentucky basketball superstar Oscar Tshiebwe announced he is entering the NBA Draft while keeping his college eligibility.

After spending two years in Lexington, Kentucky basketball big man Oscar Tshiebwe is testing the waters by entering his name in the NBA Draft. Tshiebwe can participate in the NBA Draft Combine from May 16-18 but must withdraw by May 31 if he wants to return to college.

If Oscar Tshiebwe decides to return to the Wildcats, it will give Kentucky one of the most talented rosters in college basketball. Tshiebwe was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner as the best player in college hoops in 2021-22. He’s also a 2-time consensus All-American. John Calipari brings in a loaded class, ranked first by 247Sports.

1) Oscar Tshiebwe would help develop Aaron Bradshaw

One of those impressive incoming freshmen is a 7-foot center named Aaron Bradshaw. Ranked as the fourth overall recruit in 2023 by 247Sports, Bradshaw is a dominant rim protector with a high upside as a scorer.

Of course, Oscar Tshiebwe himself, initially came to West Virginia as a raw talent, finally blossoming into the player he is today under the tutelage of Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff.

If Tshiebwe were to stay for one more year, his presence could help Bradshaw develop at a quicker pace. There may not be a better big man to learn from in the college game.

2) The Tshiebwe/Bradshaw duo resembles the 2023 UConn Huskies

The current national champions had a dynamic duo down low that caused matchup problems. Junior standout Adama Sanogo called the attention of opposing defenses. However, when Sanogo went to the bench, the Huskies didn’t miss a beat, inserting 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan. Clingan’s defensive presence was a game changer, and his offensive skillsets saw some improvements, likely thanks to going up against a player like Sanogo every day in practice.

A Tshiebwe and Bradshaw duo could work the same way for Coach Cal. Tshiebwe forces teams to game plan accordingly, so the addition of Bradshaw off the bench is even more to prepare for.

The similarities are even more noticeable when you look at how dominant Sanogo and Tshiebwe are on offense. Meanwhile, Clingan came into UConn as a defensive stopper with little offensive game. While Bradshaw’s offensive game has more to it at this point in his career, his defense is also his best attribute. The pairing of Tshiebwe and Bradshaw seems absolutely lethal.

3) Take the NIL over unsure NBA money

The issue has always been the same for senior college basketball standouts. Do you run it back one more year in college, or do you take the risk of living out your dream, even though your draft outlook isn’t overly encouraging?

That’s got to be what Oscar Tshiebwe is thinking.

Despite being one of the best players in college basketball for the past two seasons, Tshiebwe’s name isn’t anywhere to be found on most NBA mock drafts. Tankathon lists Tshiebwe as the 7th-best center prospect, and 56th overall. lists Tshiebwe as the 78th-best overall prospect.

Needless to say, Tshiebwe could cash in some checks in the NBA, but it won’t be that first-round money. Even if Tshiebwe were to be picked 30th in the 2023 NBA Draft (which is a major long shot), his starting salary would be about $1.98 million, according to

For what it’s worth, On3 reported that Tshiebwe made about $650,000 in NIL money last year, the 9th most in college basketball.

If Tshiebwe were to be picked in the NBA Draft, he would likely be one of the last picks of the draft. His rookie salary could be pretty comparable to the NIL money he would get with Kentucky next season.

Final Thoughts

Oscar Tshiebwe is one of the greatest Kentucky Wildcats athletes of the decade. His excellence on the court and domination in the post has been recognized by the number of awards he’s been able to win.

With that being said, making it to the NBA is a big deal and probably has always been for Tshiebwe. If he thinks now is the right time, no one can blame him.

However, if Tshiebwe thinks running it back once more in Lexington is the best decision for himself, the pieces are in place for it to pay off.