2-time D-I rebound king Tshiebwe stays in draft

Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe announced Wednesday that he plans to keep his name in the NBA draft, ending an outstanding college career highlighted by consensus National Player of the Year honors in 2022.

Tshiebwe entered the draft in early April, but left open the option to return to the Wildcats for another season. He had until midnight to make a final decision.

“I would like to thank Coach Cal and his staff for their support and belief in me during my life at UK,” Tshiebwe said in a statement posted to Instagram. “Lastly, I would like to thank BBN for the love, support and loyalty you have given me and my teammates over the years. I wouldn’t want to play for anyone or anywhere else.

“During this time, I have decided to remain in the 2023 NBA Draft and begin my professional career. I hope as I continue to fight for my dream of playing in the NBA, you will continue to support me. Thank you BBN for everything and I am so lucky to always call Kentucky home.”

A 6-foot-9 center from Congo, Tshiebwe was the consensus National Player of the Year two seasons ago after averaging 17.4 points and an NCAA-leading 15.1 rebounds per game. He once again led the country in rebounding this past season, tallying 13.7 per game, while also scoring 16.5 points and shooting 56% from the field. He again earned All-American honors.

Tshiebwe spent the first season and a half of his college career at West Virginia, averaging 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds as a freshman before leaving the West Virginia Mountaineers after 10 games in 2020-21.

Despite his historically impressive production at the college level, Tshiebwe is ranked No. 75 in ESPN’s NBA draft rankings and isn’t a lock to be selected.

Tshiebwe is the latest departure in what has been a tumultuous offseason for John Calipari and Kentucky. The Wildcats have also seen Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin declare for the NBA draft, while Antonio Reeves and Chris Livingston are weighing their options with hours left until the withdrawal deadline.

Sahvir Wheeler, CJ Fredrick, Daimion Collins and Lance Ware all departed Kentucky via the transfer portal this offseason.

If Reeves and Livingston don’t return to Lexington, Kentucky has just seven scholarship players on its roster — five freshmen and two sophomores who combined to average 4.8 points last season. The Wildcats are bringing in the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, however, led by top-10 prospects Justin Edwards, D.J. Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw.

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