NEW ORLEANS (USBWA) – Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, an elite rebounder, a unanimous All-American and the Southeastern Conference Player and Defensive Player of the Year with a prolific double-double average, has been named the winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the National Player of the Year as selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
The 6-9 junior from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is Kentucky's second Oscar Robertson Trophy winner, joining Anthony Davis in the 2011-12 season and just the third from an SEC school. LSU's Pete Maravich is the only other SEC player to win the award, earning it in back-to-back seasons (1968-69 and 1969-70).
The announcement came today at a press conference at the Caesars Superdome, site of the men's Final Four. Tshiebwe will be formally recognized at the USBWA's College Basketball Awards on Monday, April 11 at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. He will be joined in St. Louis by Aliyah Boston, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award winner as the women's national player of the year, national coaches of the year Tommy Lloyd of Arizona (Henry Iba Award) and South Carolina's Dawn Staley. The two national freshman players of the year will be honored as well, Jabari Smith of Auburn (Wayman Tisdale Award) and Aneesah Morrow of DePaul (Tamika Catchings Award).
Tshiebwe leads the nation in rebounding with 15.1 per game and led the Wildcats in scoring with 17.4 points per game. He is the USBWA's District IV Player of the Year and a First Team USBWA All-American, the Wildcats' first first-teamer since forward Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015. Tshiebwe is the first Division I player to average at least 15 points and at least 15 rebounds since Drake's Lewis Lloyd and Alcorn State's Larry Smith each did during the 1979-80 season, and the first within Kentucky's storied history to achieve it since Bob Burrow tallied 19.1 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in 1954-55.
He will likely become just the fourth player to earn the USBWA's National Player of the Year honor while leading the nation in rebouding, joining Ohio State's Jerry Lucas – twice the national leader and a two-time winner in the 1960-61 and '61-62 seasons – along with Wake Forest's Tim Duncan (1996-97) and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin (2008-09).
"The things that he's done haven't been done for 50 years," Wildcats head coach John Calipari said. "Let me say this again, the things that he's done haven't been done for 50 years. He plays his heart out and finds ways to impact every game. I'm proud of him, and it's not only on the court. He's so thankful and faith-based and he's a joy to coach."
He is the second player coached by Calipari to earn the Oscar Robertson Trophy. Marcus Camby won it in the 1995-96 season at UMass with Calipari as his coach.
The West Virginia transfer showed to be an elite rebounder from the start this season, grabbing 20 boards in his Kentucky debut against Duke in the season opener. Six weeks later he set a Rupp Arena record with 28 rebounds in a win over Western Kentucky, a feat not seen at UK since 1969 and one that earned him the USBWA's Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. He had another 20 boards the next game in the SEC opener against Missouri – the 48 rebounds tied for the most over a two-game span by any Division I player over the last 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Tshiebwe pulled in at least 10 boards in 32 of 34 games including 21 straight at one point. He finished the season with 16 straight double-doubles, the longest streak since complete game-by-game rebounding records were kept at UK dating back to 1969. His 28 double-doubles are a new Kentucky single-season record and his 515 total rebounds make him only the third player in UK history to top the 500 mark in a season. Taking away team rebounds, Tshiebwe grabbed 41.2 percent of all of the Wildcats' rebounds this season.
A complete player on both ends, Tshiebwe also showed his defensive skills as the only major conference player to average at least 1.6 blocked shots and 1.6 steals per game during the regular season, leading the Wildcats in both categories.
Tshiebwe was a unanimous All-American as determined by the four major awarding organizations: the USBWA, Associated Press, NABC and The Sporting News.
Earlier today, South Carolina's Aliyah Boston was named the winner of the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the women's national player of year, which marks just the third time both national players of the year have come from the same conference. The ACC claims both of the previous pairings. The two SEC standouts this season join South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley when she won the then-national player of the year at Virginia in the 1991-92 season as Christian Laettner was earning the Oscar Robertson Trophy at Duke. The second and previous occasion came in 2005-06 when North Carolina's Ivory Latta and Duke's J.J. Redick (a co-winner with Gonzaga's Adam Morrison) earned the top national honors.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is voted on by the entire membership of the association, which consists of more than 900 journalists. It is the nation's oldest award. "The Big O" won the USBWA's first two national player of the year awards in 1959 and '60 and was the consensus national player of the year as a sophomore at Cincinnati in 1958, the year before USBWA began presenting its player of the year award. The USBWA renamed the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran at 814-574-1485. For additional info about covering the awards banquet, contact Jim Wilson with the MAC (314-539-4488).