LEXINGTON – The historic character of Oscar Tshiebwe’s 2021-2022 season was well established before Tuesday, but now the junior forward can claim an honor that no other Kentucky basketball player had previously deserved.
Tshiebwe took home the Wooden Award on Tuesday and became the first player in Britain’s history to win the six NCAA-recognized National Player of the Year awards. Tshiebwe was previously announced as the winner of The Sporting News Player of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year, National Association of Basketball Coaches Player of the Year, Oscar Robertson Trophy and Naismith Trophy.
Five former Wildcats have won at least one award as National Player of the Year.
Forest Sale (1933), LeRoy Edwards (1935) and Jack Givens (1978) were named Helms National Player of the Year. John Wall (2010) won the Adolph Rupp Trophy. Anthony Davis (2012) won 5 of 6 NCAA-recognized Player of the Year awards and lost only the Coach Award. Sales and Edwards’ honors were awarded retroactively in 1944.
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Already a consensus first-team All-American, Tshiebwe broke Britain’s record for double-doubles in a single season (27). He ranks third on the UK’s single-season rebounds list (515). Tshiebwe led the country in rebounds per game (15.1) and offensive rebounds per game (5.26). He ranks second in defensive rebounds per game (9.88).
No Kentucky player had recorded 20 rebounds in a game since 1994 before Tshiebwe reached the plateau in his Wildcat debut. He waited an entire match to snatch 20 rebounds again. Tshiebwe topped 20 rebounds five times in 33 games, breaking Shaquille O’Neal’s Rupp Arena rebound record by 28 boards in a win over Western Kentucky in December.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound striker also led Kentucky in scoring (17.4 points per game), blocked shots (55) and steals (60). The SEC coaches named him the league’s All-Defensive Team.
Will Oscar Tshiebwe return to Kentucky basketball?
Since the John Wooden Award was first presented in 1976, 27 players have won all six of the current NCAA-recognized National Player of the Year awards before Tshiebwe. Of that group, only two players returned to school next season.
After winning the six awards for Player of the Year in 1982, Ralph Sampson returned to Virginia for the 1982-83 season. He won 5 of 6 of the awards as a senior and only lost The Sporting News award to Michael Jordan.
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North Carolina junior Tyler Hansbrough won the awards in 2008 and then returned for the 2008-09 season. While losing each of the Player of the Year awards to Blake Griffin as a senior, Hansbrough and the Tar Heels won the 2009 national championship.
Since Hansbrough’s victory in 2008, only one player who won any of the six National Player of the Year awards has returned to school (Luka Garza; Sporting News, 2020). The last Associate Press National Player of the Year to return to school before Hansbrough was O’Neal in 1991.
However, it can be difficult to draw many comparisons between Tshiebwe and the other winners of Player of the Year.
Of the 12 underclassmen who won the six awards and traveled to the NBA, 11 were selected within the first six picks of the subsequent draft. Only Jalen Brunson in 2018 was another round, the series in which Tshiebwe is expected to be selected if he starts his professional career this spring.
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Tshiebwe is also the first player of the year to return to school and take advantage of his name, image and likeness, but as an international student, the native Democratic Republic of Congo still needs visa issues to monetize approval agreements in UK next year.
“I’ve asked for it and I know I have a big decision to make,” Tshiebwe saidSunday. “It would be great to be in the blue again because I love the place, I love the fans, I love everything about Kentucky. But no matter what decision God tells me to make, that’s what I want to do.”
Send an email to Jon Hale at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.