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Oscar Tshiebwe makes Wooden Award midseason top 25

Junior forward leads the country in rebounding; leads the Wildcats in scoring as well
Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots over Notre Dame's Paul Atkinson Jr. (20) during the first...
Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots over Notre Dame's Paul Atkinson Jr. (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)(Robert Franklin | AP)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 9:50 PM EST
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LOS ANGELES – Kentucky junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe, who is recording historic rebounding numbers at the 2021-22 midway point, has made the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List.

Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts based on their performances during the 2021-22 season thus far, the list is comprised of 25 student-athletes who are frontrunners for the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s crowning award. The list was unveiled Wednesday evening on ESPNU.

Players not chosen to the preseason or midseason list are still eligible for the Wooden Award National Ballot, which consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average. Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players when voting opens prior to the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games.

The Wooden Award All American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament and the winner of the 2022 John R. Wooden Award will be presented by Wendy’s following the NCAA Tournament in April.

Anthony Davis is the only winner in program history. He claimed the honor in 2012 after helping lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship in program history. Previous winners include Larry Bird (1979), Michael Jordan (1984), Tim Duncan (1997), Kevin Durant (2007) and last year’s recipient, Luka Garza of Iowa.

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. 4, Tshiebwe led the country in rebounds per game 15.1), offensive rebounds per game (5.6) and offensive rebounding percentage (22.6). He also leads the Wildcats in scoring with 15.2 points per game and ranks second nationally with 10 double-doubles.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo native has recorded four 20-rebound performances in just 14 games. 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 seeking to become the first UK player to average at least 14.0 boards per game in a season since Ed Beck averaged 14.1 in the 1956-57 season. 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 33.9% of all of UK’s rebounds this season. Taking away team rebounds, that percentage jumps to 37.1%.

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 61.7% from the floor and has scored 20 or more points four times. He is looking to become the first Wildcat to average at least 15 points and at least 15 rebounds per game since Burrow tallied 19.1 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in 1954-55.

Last week, 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 Southeastern Conference Co-Player of the Week.

Tshiebwe and the Wildcats return to Rupp Arena on Saturday to host Georgia at 6 p.m. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

For the latest on the Kentucky men’s basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on TwitterFacebookInstagram and TikTok, and on the web at UKathletics.com.