Well, chalk up a different kind of victory for the new Name, Image and Likeness rules that allow for college athletes to be paid money legally, for the most part.
NIL may be an NCAA enforcement nightmare with regard to keeping potential sponsorship deals and the like out of recruiting – wink, wink. But, as expected, it will help with the fight against the NBA and its raiding of college rosters through the draft, even when players are clearly not ready.
On Wednesday, Kentucky forward/center Oscar Tshiebwe – the consensus national player of the year in the 2021-22 season – decided to stay a Wildcat for his senior season. Yes, he has been told he may not go in the two rounds of the June 23 NBA Draft after testing the waters in recent weeks, but that has not stopped players from entering the draft in recent years after being told the same thing.
Tshiebwe, 22, will work on his game one more year and earn some NIL money, which he found difficult to do over the last several months since NIL legislation was passed into law around the country because of his Visa issues as he is a native of Lubumbashi, Congo.
Those issues recently cleared up, and he is free to make money via sponsorships like native-born athletes in the United States.
“I’m back,” Tshiebwe announced on his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon.
“God has told me he is not done with me yet,” Tshiebwe continued. “So, I decided, and he told me he wanted me to go back just to work because he’s not done with me in this place yet. I’ll be back again. I’ll be here next year for Kentucky. I’ll be in the blue in Kentucky next year again.”
And keep those NIL deals coming, thank you very much.
Tshiebwe is the first Wooden Award winner to return to school since 2008 when guard Tyler Hansbrough remained at North Carolina. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Tshiebwe led the nation in rebounding last season with 15.2 a game – the most since Tennessee State’s Monte Davis averaged 16.2 in the 1978-79 season.
He became the first SEC player to lead the nation in rebounding since LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal averaged 14.7 in the 1990-91 season.
Tshiebwe also averaged 17 points a game and was named national player of the year by Naismith, the Associated Press and The Sporting News in addition to being named SEC player of the year.
Tshiebwe led Kentucky to a 26-8 finish last season with a 14-4, runner-up finish in the SEC. The Wildcats landed a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament before a shocking, 85-79 upset loss in overtime to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s, which went on to advance to the Elite Eight.
“If he chooses to leave, I’ll be sad because I’d like to coach him another year. But I’ll be happy for him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said early this month. “If he chooses to come back, let’s win a national title.”
Kentucky last did that in 2012.
A transfer from West Virginia before last season, Tshiebwe led the Wildcats’ revival from their worst season since 1926-27 in 2020-21 when Kentucky went 9-16 overall and 8-9 in the SEC.