Morgantown, West Virginia – When the West Virginia Mountaineers were 11-1 to start the season, Bob Huggins proudly announced that his team clearly didn’t need Oscar Tshiebwe.
“We lost an alleged McDonald’s All-American because he didn’t like the fact that we were making him do things that were hard,” Huggins said of Tshiebwe. “So, we’re fine.”
As it turns out, the Mountaineers were anything but fine.
Following multiple losing streaks, West Virginia finished the season 16-17 overall and in last place in the Big 12 Conference at 4-14. In addition, the Mountaineers were one of the worst rebounding teams in the entire country.
On on the other hand, Oscar Tshiebwe, the alleged McDonald’s All-American that Huggins cited, went on to lead his Kentucky Wildcats to a 26-7 record while averaging 17.0 points and a nation’s best 15.1 rebounds per game. In addition, Tshiebwe was already been named the SEC Player of the Year and will almost certainly win the John Wooden Award for college basketball’s National Player of the Year.
In hindsight, Huggins’ comment about Tshiebwe was both embarrassing and wrong.
To begin, Oscar Tshiebwe was not an alleged McDonald’s All-American. He was a McDonald’s All-American! How dare Huggins take that incredible honor that he earned away from him.
Second, have you ever heard of a collegiate coach (or any coach for that matter!) talk negatively about a former player? It’s absolutely unheard of! Coaches wish their former player the best and move on with what they have. Not Huggins. He took the time to gloat about how he didn’t need Tshiebwe, that Tshiebwe didn’t work hard enough, that Tshiebwe wasn’t really as good as other thoughts, etc.
And then Oscar Tshiebwe went out and proved that he’s not just good, he’s the best player in the entire nation.
It’s easy to overlook this as a West Virginia fan and make Tshiebwe out to be lazy, a cry baby, a prima donna, but the reality is that he’s none of those things. He’s the best recruit Bob Huggins has ever had (or will probably ever have) at West Virginia University.
When Oscar Tshiebwe was asked about Huggins’ comments about him, rather than stooping to Huggins’ level, he took the high road and was complimentary of his former head coach.
“He’s a great coach,” Tshiebwe said of Huggins. “And I know I always work harder, and I’m always trying to get better. Just because things don’t go right doesn’t mean you quit. I can’t say anything about Bob Huggins, who is a good coach, who coached me and did everything for me and tried to help me.”
It’s unfortunate that a 21 year old with limited English was more articulate and professional than a 68 year old with 40 years of experience in this sport.