Kentucky basketball landed a commitment from West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe on Sunday, just nine days after the Mountaineers announced that the preseason All-Big 12 selection would be leaving the program due to personal reasons. The 6-foot-9 former McDonald’s All-American averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds as a freshman before seeing his role and productivity decline in the first 10 games this season.
Though Tshiebwe likely will not be eligible until next season at the earliest, landing a proven big man is a big get for the Wildcats, who have become increasingly reliant on transfers to counter-balance their annual influx of talented freshmen. Tshiebwe is not a perimeter or threat or a great rim protector. But he is an elite rebounder and effective post scorer capable of bullying opponents with his physicality.
Despite his preseason accolades, Tshiebwe found himself crowded out of the post at times early this season by fellow West Virginia big man Derek Culver, who is averaging 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. Neither player can space the floor out to the 3-point line, and Tshiebwe was playing just 19.9 minutes per game when he decided to leave the program.
Tshiebwe also considered NC State, Miami and Illinois, but Kentucky was among the school’s he considered as a high school prospect when he was ranked the No. 31 overall player in the class of 2019 by the 247Sports Composite.
Since Tshiebwe’s departure, West Virginia has lost two of three games, including a particularly heartbreaking last-second loss at home to Texas on Saturday. The Mountaineers were picked to finish third in the Big 12 but are 2-3 in league play with a game at No. 2 Baylor looming Tuesday.