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How Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe is turning into probably the greatest rebounders ever

It’s straightforward to view Oscar Tshiebwe as the kind of basketball participant the trendy recreation has tried to weed out. There isn’t alleged to be room for a 6’9 middle who has by no means tried a three-pointer in 50+ faculty basketball video games and has practically thrice as many turnovers in his profession as he does assists. He’s at a top deficit in opposition to most facilities by at the least a pair inches, and he definitely doesn’t have the perimeter offensive expertise each coach now calls for out of their energy ahead.

But in his third 12 months of school basketball and his first at Kentucky, it’s turning into obvious that Tshiebwe is the game’s most dominant pressure. He’s without delay each a throwback and an unique within the recreation: somebody who performs like bigs from a long time earlier whereas doing it as properly or higher than anybody ever has.

Tshiebwe got here to the USA from the Congo initially of highschool to pursue a future in basketball — a sport he had solely began enjoying a 12 months earlier. At Pennsylvania’s Kennedy Catholic, he blossomed right into a McDonald’s All-American and borderline five-star recruit due to his hulking body and continuous motor. He selected West Virginia over Kentucky and have become one of many higher facilities within the Large 12 as a freshman, but he by no means appeared like an ideal match for Bob Huggins’ hyper-aggressive defensive schemes.

Tshiebwe determined to switch midway via his sophomore season final 12 months and finally picked Kentucky due to the connection he as soon as fashioned with John Calipari on the recruiting path. He knew his fundamental accountability could be rebounding. Final 12 months’s Wildcats struggled on the boards — ending No. 269 in defensive rebound charge — regardless of boasting the fifth tallest lineup within the nation, per KenPom.

Tshiebwe has primarily mounted that downside by himself to begin this season.

Tshiebwe’s rebounding supremacy confronted its largest take a look at of the season on Wednesday evening in opposition to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers had been Kentucky’s fill-in opponent after their annual Dec. showdown with arch-rival Louisville was cancelled due to the Cardinals’ Covid-19 outbreak. Western Kentucky was no straightforward matchup: they’d upset Louisville only some days prior, they usually had a 7’5 middle in Jamarion Sharp manning the within.

Might Tshiebwe actually personal the glass in opposition to the largest participant within the nation? Please. As Kentucky took dwelling a 95-60 win, Tshiebwe put up some of the outstanding stat traces of the season: 14 factors and 28 (!!!) rebounds, grabbing extra boards than the Hilltoppers all by himself. Significantly.

When it was over, he paraded across the stadium with an indication celebrating his huge evening.

That’s the most rebounds by a Kentucky participant since 1976 and essentially the most ever by somebody at Rupp Enviornment — breaking a report held by none aside from Shaq. It’s an undeniably spectacular accomplishment for Tshiebwe, nevertheless it’s merely the tip of the iceberg on the subject of his ridiculous rebounding season.

Tshiebwe is averaging 16.1 factors and 15.5 rebounds per recreation as Kentucky prepares to begin SEC play in its subsequent recreation. He’s main the nation in rebounding by practically two per recreation over the subsequent closest participant (Utah Valley middle Fardaws Aimaq), and three.5 boards per recreation over the subsequent closest participant in a serious convention (Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn).

Tshiebwe is No. 1 in each offensive and defensive rebound charge within the nation proper now

No participant has accomplished that since Kenneth Faried in 2010-2011, and he was enjoying at mid-major Morehead State.

To observe Tsheibwe this season is to see lots of performs like this:

Fashionable basketball has given us loads of “misplaced arts” over the previous couple of years — the misplaced artwork of the mid-range recreation! The misplaced artwork of the publish entry! — however rebounding exists on a special form of stage. Gamers with an elite ability in different areas of the sport like rim safety, level of assault protection, and particularly three-point taking pictures can get drafted off that one ability. Rebounding alternatively typically seems like one thing a coach is prepared to sacrifice to get extra of one thing else — pace, taking pictures, transition protection, no matter. As groups have began taking considerably extra threes, the kinds of rebounds which are out there have modified. Guards will typically put up larger rebounding numbers now as a result of missed threes are likely to journey additional when the clank off iron, hovering previous the giants within the paint.

Rebounding has at all times been about greater than top. Dennis Rodman taught us that. If Tshiebwe is somewhat quick for a middle, he definitely isn’t missing in dimension: he has a monstrous 7’4 wingspan, and a powerful 255-pound body. Tshiebwe’s largest benefit seems like his vitality. He’s merely indefatigable on the glass, seeming to possession a sixth sense for the place the ball goes to bounce, after which having the energy and toughness to carve out sufficient house to seize it as soon as it’s out there. That motor isn’t restricted to the glass: Tshiebwe runs the ground exhausting in transition, he makes positive he will get contact on screens each on and off the ball, and he can cowl floor shortly on his defensive rotations when he must.

However the rebounding. The rebounding actually stands out. Bear in mind after we talked about that Kentucky struggled on the glass final season? Tshiebwe already has extra rebounds (170) in 11 video games than Kentucky’s chief final season (first spherical choose Isaiah Jackson) did in 25 video games. He has extra offensive rebounds this 12 months than 4 complete groups!

His offensive rebound charge of 24 p.c would the very best ever since KenPom’s database began in 2003-2004. If he ends the season averaging 15 rebounds per recreation, he’ll be the primary males’s faculty basketball participant to try this since 1980.

Kentucky is now No. 1 in offensive rebounding and top-25 in defensive rebounding. The Wildcats nonetheless don’t take many threes — they’re No. 344 out of 358 groups in three-point charge — however all the additional possessions Tshiebwe helps safe makes up for it. The Wildcats are as much as No. 11 in KenPom’s general effectivity rankings and are quietly beginning to appear like a Remaining 4 menace following their opening evening loss to Duke and a stunning defeat at Notre Dame earlier this month. In the mean time, Tshiebwe is No. 2 in KenPom’s nationwide Participant of the Yr metric.

NBA groups need their facilities to house the ground, to soar above the rim for blocks, to have the ability to beat a double crew with their passing when their ball handler will get trapped popping out of the pick-and-roll. That’s not Tshiebwe’s recreation. As a substitute, Tshiebwe merely by no means stops coming for the rattling ball, and never even a 7’5 man goes to cease him from getting it.

There will likely be a possibility for Tshiebwe to show he could be an NBA participant whether or not he’s drafted within the first spherical or not. Low cost his elite ability if you would like. Oscar Tshiebwe simply retains going.

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