Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe wins the Naismith Trophy
NEW ORLEANS – Sunday in New Orleans, Kentucky Oscar Tshiebwe received one of college basketball’s most prestigious honors, the Naismith Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best player by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
The native of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, is the second recipient of this honor in the program’s history. It joins Anthony Davis (2012) as award winners. Tshiebwe, Davis and Pete Maravich (LSU – 1970) are the Southeastern Conference member institution recipients. He is the third player coached by John Calipari to claim the award joining Davis and Marcus Camby of UMass (1996).
The Naismith Trophy has been awarded to the best player in college basketball since Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, received the first honor in 1969. Tshiebwe received the iconic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award from the best center in the nation. , on Saturday as one of his main playoff accolades this year.
This is the fifth voter recognized by the NCAA for the National Player of the Year honor that Tshiebwe has received. He was also chosen as the nation’s top performer by The Sporting News, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, The Associated Press, and the United States Basketball Writers Association. The final prize, the Wooden Award, will be announced on Tuesday. Tshiebwe is looking to become the first player in program history to become a unanimous selection for player of the year.
Tshiebwe not only averaged a double-double, but did so by a considerable margin — averaging a team-best 17.4 points and a national-best 15.1 rebounds per game. He is the first Division I player to average at least 15.0 points and at least 15.0 rebounds per game since Drake’s Lewis Lloyd and Alcorn State’s Larry Smith each did so during the 1979 season. -80, and the first major conference player to average at least 16.0 points and at least 15.0 rebounds for a season since Bill Walton at UCLA in 1972-73. He became the first Wildcat to do so since Bob Burrow had 19.1 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in 1954-55.
In addition to his offensive and rebounding prowess, defensively, Tshiebwe was the only major player in the conference to average at least 1.6 blocked shots and 1.6 steals per game during the regular season. He also became the third player in program history to rack up at least 500 rebounds in a season. Tshiebwe finished the year with 515 boards.
A consensus All-American, Tshiebwe mustered at least 10 boards in all but two games this season and finished the season with 21 straight double-digit rebounds. It’s a record for the Wildcats dating back to the 1967-68 season with all game-by-game rebounding records. Dan Issel had two such 12-game streaks. It’s also the longest streak by an SEC player since at least 1996-97. It’s also the longest single-season streak by a Division I player since Hofstra’s Rokas Gustys had 23 in a row in 2016.
Tshiebwe was elite on the glass from the start of the season. He set new records for the Champions Classic and his UK debut with 20 boards against Duke in the season opener, nearly tied the Rupp Arena record with 20 rebounds in his first home game , then broke that Rupp record with 28 boards against Western Kentucky. . This easily surpassed Shaquille O’Neal’s previous mark of 21 years. It should be noted that Tshiebwe did this primarily against college basketball’s tallest player, Jamarion Sharp, who is 7-foot-5. With 20 boards the next game against Missouri, his 48 boards are tied over a two-game span by any Division I player in the last 25 seasons (according to ESPN Stats & Info).
He finished the season with 16 consecutive double-doubles, the longest streak since complete game-by-game rebound records have been kept since 1969 for the Wildcats. He has totaled 28 double-doubles this season, which is a new British record in a season.
Tshiebwe finished the season becoming only the second Wildcat since 1978-79 to finish the season leading the team in points per game (17.4), rebounds per game (15.1), steals per game (1, 8), blocks per game (1.6) and pitch-percentage of goals with a minimum of 100 attempts (60.6%). Davis was the other to achieve the feat.
At the end of the season, Tshiebwe was responsible for 37.8% of all UK rebounds. Stripping out the team’s rebounds, that number jumped to 41.2%.
Tshiebwe is racking up playoff honors day by day. Major honors he has won so far include:
- Naismith Player of the Year
- Kareem Abdul Jabbar Award
- USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy
- Associate Press Player of the Year
- NABC National Player of the Year
- NABC Pete Newell Big Man of the Year
- NCAA Consensus All-America First Team
- Wooden Award All-America Team
- USBWA All-America First Team
- NABC All-America First Team
- Associated Press All-America First Team
- Sporting News All-America First Team
- Wooden Award All-America Team
- NABC All-District 20 First Team
- Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (Coaches/Media)
- All-SEC First Team (Coaches/Media)
- All-SEC Defensive Team (Coaches)
- USBWA District IV Player of the Year
- Team USBWA All-District IV
- CBS Sports National Player of the Year
- USA Today National Player of the Year
- USA Today First Team All-American
- Athletic’s National Player of the Year
- Sports Illustrated First Team All-American
- The Field of 68 National Player of the Year
- The 68 All-America First Team Champ
- College Hoops Today National Player of the Year
- USA Today SEC Player of the Year
- USA Today Unanimous All-SEC First Team Selection