NEW ORLEANS — Kentucky junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe was named the winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award which honors the nation’s best center by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The award began being given annually in 2015 and Tshiebwe is the first winner in program history. He is now the third UK player under John Calipari to receive a positional award from the Naismith’s Starting Five. Tyler Ulis was the Bob Cousy winner for the best point guard in 2016 and Malik Monk captured the Jerry West honor as the best shooting guard in 2017.
Tshiebwe found out he was the 2022 winner on a zoom call with six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NCAA Most Outstanding Player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Wednesday. The honors were officially announced on Saturday during ESPN’s College GameDay.
Tshiebwe not only averaged a double-double but did so with a considerable margin -- averaging a team-best 17.4 points and a nation-leading 15.1 rebounds per game. He is the first Division I player who averaged at least 15.0 points and at least 15.0 rebounds per game since Drake’s Lewis Lloyd and Alcorn State’s Larry Smith each did during the 1979-80 season, and the first major-conference player who averaged at least 16.0 points and at least 15.0 rebounds for a season since Bill Walton at UCLA in 1972-73. He became the first Wildcat to do it since Bob Burrow tallied 19.1 points and 17.7 rebounds per game in 1954-55.
In addition to his offensive and rebounding prowess, on the defensive end Tshiebwe was the only major conference player who averaged at least 1.6 blocked shots and 1.6 steals per game during the regular season. He also became only the third player in program history to amass at least 500 rebounds in a season. Tshiebwe finished the year with 515 boards.
A consensus All-American, Tshiebwe corralled at least 10 boards in all but two games this season and finished the season with 21 straight games with double-digit rebounds. That's a record for the Wildcats dating back to the 1967-68 season with complete game-by-game rebounding records. Dan Issel had two stretches of 12 such games. It's also the longest stretch by any SEC player since at least 1996- 97. It’s also the longest streak in one season by any Division I player since Rokas Gustys of Hofstra had 23 straight in 2016.
Tshiebwe was elite on the glass from the very beginning of the season. He set new records for the Champions Classic and UK debut with 20 boards vs. Duke in the season opener, nearly tied the Rupp Arena record with 20 rebounds in his first home game, and then shattered that Rupp record with 28 boards vs. Western Kentucky. That easily surpassed Shaquille O'Neal's previous mark of 21. It's worth noting Tshiebwe did that primarily against the tallest player in college basketball, Jamarion Sharp, who stands at 7-foot-5. With 20 boards the following game against Missouri, his 48 boards tied for the most over a two-game span by any Division I player over the last 25 seasons (according to ESPN Stats & Info).
He concluded the season with 16 straight double-doubles, the longest streak since complete game-by-game rebounding records were kept dating back to 1969 for the Wildcats. He totaled 28 double-doubles this season which is a new UK single-season record.
Tshiebwe ended the season becoming only the second Wildcat since 1978-79 to finish the season leading the team in points per game (17.4), rebounds per game (15.1), steals per game (1.8), blocks per game (1.6) and field-goal percentage with a minimum of 100 attempts (60.6%). Davis was the other to achieve the feat.
At the conclusion of the season, Tshiebwe was responsible for 37.8% of all of UK’s rebounds. Taking away team rebounds, that number jumped to 41.2%.
Tshiebwe is racking up postseason honors by the day. The major honors he’s won so far include: