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Saturday May 21st, 2022 8:57AM

Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe to return for senior season

By The Associated Press
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe will return for his senior year with the Wildcats after a breakout season in which he swept national player of the year awards.

The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe announced his decision Wednesday on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“I’ll be here next year for Kentucky,” he said.

The junior’s decision was the most anticipated from a Wildcats squad that rode his dominant performance, especially on the boards. Tshiebwe led the nation with 15.1 rebounds per game and averaged 17.4 points. He also had 60 steals and 55 blocks. He finished the season with 16 consecutive double-doubles on the way to a school-record 28 that surpassed Kentucky great Dan Issel (26).

The West Virginia transfer helped the Wildcats (26-8) return to the NCAA Tournament before collecting numerous individual honors from The Associated Press and others, including the Naismith and Wooden awards as the nation’s top player. Second-seeded Kentucky was stunned 85-79 in overtime by tiny No. 15 seed Saint Peter's in the first round, in which Tshiebwe had 30 points and 16 rebounds.

“For me, it is the best motivation," he said of the bracket-busting loss. Now, I know how things (are) like. I’m never going to want to go through the same thing.”

Tshiebwe, who is from the Congo, said on the broadcast that he prayed and consulted with his mother before deciding last week to return to school. Tshiebwe said it was his dream to be an NBA lottery pick, but draft projections had him going in the second round this summer.

“They want my game to expand a little bit,” Tshiebwe said of input from NBA clubs. “They want me to be able to make one or two 3-pointers, They want me to catch the ball, drive and finish, and get better in dribbling. Those things, I’ve got to improve next year.”

Tshiebwe’s affable personality on the court and accessibility off has made him extremely popular among Kentucky’s fan base as he fulfilled autograph and selfie requests. He spoke often about his faith in interviews, which put him in demand to speak at churches in Lexington and around the state.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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