Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe Wins 2022 Naismith Men's Player of the Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 3, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 17: Oscar Tshiebwe #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats looks on in the first half against the Saint Peter's Peacocks during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 17, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe was named the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year to cap off a monster 2021-22 season.

The Naismith Trophy @NaismithTrophy

𝐏𝐋𝐀𝐘𝐄𝐑 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐘𝐄𝐀𝐑 🏆 <a href="https://twitter.com/KentuckyMBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KentuckyMBB</a>'s <a href="https://twitter.com/Oscartshiebwe34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Oscartshiebwe34</a> has been named the 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/jerseymikes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jerseymikes</a> Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year!<br><br>Tshiebwe is the first Division I player since the 1979-80 season to average at least 15.0 points and 15.0 rebounds per game. <a href="https://t.co/4Xziinv5AH">pic.twitter.com/4Xziinv5AH</a>

Kentucky Men’s Basketball @KentuckyMBB

🏆 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OscarWorthy?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OscarWorthy</a> <a href="https://t.co/IoUYflZv92">pic.twitter.com/IoUYflZv92</a>

Tshiebwe was one of four finalists alongside Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, Wisconsin's Johnny Davis and Iowa's Keegan Murray. He was already honored as the Associated Press' player of the year on the men's side, so he emerged as the heavy favorite for the Naismith award.

Anthony Davis is the only other Naismith winner in Wildcats history.

"I am very excited," Tshiebwe said of the achievement. "First off, I want to thank God. Second, I want to thank my family for supporting everything I do. Thirdly, I want to thank my coaches, especially Coach Cal. I am really grateful to be here. Thank you to the Naismith Awards for picking me. Thank you to my teammates, coaches and staff for helping me and pushing me."

Tshiebwe's numbers speak for themselves. The 6'9" forward averaged 17.4 points, 15.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks over 34 games. He also shot 60.6 percent from the field.

Thanks to his combination of size, strength and agility, he was simply unstoppable at times.

B/R Hoops @brhoops

Oscar Tshiebwe was a force inside as No. 6 Kentucky beats LSU😤🔥 <a href="https://twitter.com/Oscartshiebwe34?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Oscartshiebwe34</a> <br><br>- 17 points<br>- 16 rebounds<br>- 3 blocks <a href="https://t.co/FhXdJEm09w">pic.twitter.com/FhXdJEm09w</a>

Kentucky's season came to a disappointing end as the Wildcats were the first victims of Saint Peter's during the Peacocks' Cinderella NCAA tournament run. In an 85-79 overtime defeat, Tshiebwe was far and away UK's standout performer as he dropped 30 points, 16 boards, two steals and two blocks.

Tshiebwe's energy and raw talent were evident during his first two years with West Virginia, when he averaged 10.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. Transferring to Kentucky allowed him to shine on a national stage, and that could have major implications going forward.

Last November, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman didn't list Tshibwe among the top 50 players eligible for the 2022 NBA draft. But in Wasserman's most recent mock draft, Tshiebwe was projected to land 33rd overall to the Indiana Pacers.

It has been a rapid rise for somebody who didn't play basketball until he was 14.