Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe, national player of the year, returning to UK

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The best player in college basketball will be back next season.

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, the consensus National Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season, announced on Wednesday that he will return to UK for another year.

In a video posted on social media, Tshiebwe said simply, “I’m back. Let’s go to work.”

Tshiebwe, who averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game last season, said in a SportsCenter interview that he is looking to improve his NBA draft stock with another year of college basketball.

“I always wanted to be a lottery pick — top 10, top 15. I asked God why am I not there yet? So God has told me he’s not done with me yet in this place,” Tshiebwe said. “So I’ll be back again. I’ll be here next year for Kentucky. I’ll be in the blue in Kentucky next year.”

With Wednesday’s decision, Tshiebwe becomes the first Wooden Award winner to return to college since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. In addition to the Wooden Award, Tshiebwe garnered multiple other national player of the year and All-American honors. He was also the SEC Player of the Year.

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) celebrates while walking off the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida on Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) celebrates while walking off the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida on Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

Kentucky among national championship favorites

Tshiebwe, a native of Congo, began his career at West Virginia. He played parts of two seasons at WVU before transferring to Kentucky midway through the 2020-21 season. In his Kentucky debut, Tshiebwe posted 17 points and 20 rebounds against Duke. It would be his first of 28 double-doubles on the season. He led the nation in rebounding and had five games with at least 20 rebounds. In a December game against Western Kentucky, Tshiebwe grabbed 28 rebounds to go with 14 points.

Now that he’s set to return to Lexington, Tshiebwe is expected to cash in on an array of Name, Image and Likeness opportunities — potentially earning more than he would as a second-round NBA draft choice.

Tshiebwe can also help Kentucky bounce back from a first-round NCAA tournament exit. As the No. 2 seed in the East region, UK lost 85-79 in overtime to St. Peter’s, the No. 15 seed. Tshiebwe had 30 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. St. Peter’s went on an all-time Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.

With Tshiebwe officially back in the fold, Kentucky will enter next season as one of the national championship favorites. In fact, Kentucky is currently tied with Duke atop the odds board at BetMGM at +1000.

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