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Tshiebwe Named to Sporting News Midseason All-America Team

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe was named to the Sporting News’ First-Team Midseason All-America Team it was announced on Thursday. Tshiebwe leads the country in rebounding and paces the Wildcats in scoring.

This marks the third major midseason national recognition for Tshiebwe. He was also named to both the Lute Olson Watch List and the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch Lists for its player of the year honors.

Oscar Tshiebwe (SEC Media Photo)

Tshiebwe has made a national name for himself with rebounding numbers that haven’t been seen in decades at the Division I college basketball level.

Through games on Jan. 19, Tshiebwe led the country in rebounds per game (14.8), offensive rebounds per game (5.2), offensive rebounding percentage (20.8) and defensive rebounding percentage (35.4). He also leads the Wildcats in scoring with 16.1 points per game and ranks third nationally with 12 double-doubles.

The Sporting News lists his defining game at the midway point of the season as his 16-point, 12-rebound effort against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas.

“Tshiebwe has played 18 games in his first season with the Wildcats after transferring from West Virginia; he failed to record double-figure rebounds in only two of them,” The Sporting News wrote. “He has grabbed at least 15 rebounds in eight games and has had four games with at least 20. Tshiebwe is one of those rare players, like Dennis Rodman or Paul Silas or Wes Unseld, who understands how to read a ball in flight and when to seize a position beneath the goal where the ball is likely to land – as well as the overwhelming power to assure that spot will belong to him. He also has improved his jumpshooting to become more versatile on offense, which periodically opens up the inside so dynamic teammates Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington Jr. can attack the rim.”

There’s certainly been more than one defining moment for Tshiebwe as he leads the Wildcats in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocks and field-goal percentage.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo native has recorded four 20-rebound performances. No other player in the county has more than one.

Included in his four 20-rebound games was a record-setting 28-board performance in a dominating win over Western Kentucky. The 28 boards crushed the Rupp Arena record of 21 previously held by Shaquille O’Neal.

Not only did Tshiebwe record more rebounds than WKU’s entire team – and against the tallest player in the country, Jamarion Sharp, who stands at 7-foot-5 – his total tied for the sixth-most rebounds in UK history and the most in more than 45 years, when Mike Phillips corralled 28 caroms in an overtime game vs. Tennessee on Jan. 10, 1976. They are the most for a Wildcat in a regulation-length game in more than 52 years, when Dan Issel grabbed 29 rebounds vs. LSU on February 22, 1969. According to STATS, his 28 rebounds are also the most in Division I college basketball since Kendall Gray from Delaware State recorded 30 at Coppin State on March 5, 2015.

Tshiebwe is looking to become the first Division I player to average at least 15.0 points per game and at least 15.0 rebounds per game since Drake’s Lewis Lloyd and Alcorn State’s Larry Smith each did during the 1979-80 season.

The last UK player to average at least 14.0 rebounds per game in a season was Ed Beck in 1956-57. Bob Burrow owns the Kentucky single-season record of 17.7 rebounds per game, which was set during the 1954-55 season. Only two players under John Calipari have averaged double-figures rebounds for a season: Anthony Davis (2012) and Julius Randle (2014) both hauled in 10.4 per game.

Put another way, Tshiebwe is responsible for 35.0% of all of UK’s rebounds this season. Taking away team rebounds, that percentage jumps to 38.5%.

The 255-pound forward is no pushover offensively either. With improved post work and the second-chance opportunities he is creating for himself on the glass, Tshiebwe is shooting 61.6% from the floor and has scored 20 or more points six times, including a career-high 30 points at Vanderbilt. He was the first UK player to tally a 30-point, 10-rebound game since Patrick Patterson had 33 points and 11 rebounds against Tennessee State on Dec. 22, 2008. Tshiebwe is also the first Wildcat to score at least 29 points in consecutive Southeastern Conference games since Kenny Walker in February 1985.

Tshiebwe was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week by Andy Katz. He was also named the SEC Co-Player of the Week on Dec. 27.

Tshiebwe and the Wildcats return to action to take on the No. 2/2 Auburn Tigers on their home floor at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be televised by CBS.

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Click here for Jamie H. Vaught's column on Tshiebwe which was posted earlier this week.

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