Oscar Tshiebwe, the 6’9 freshman forward for the Mountaineers, has already made a splash in his first 13 collegiate games. He is West Virginia’s go-to player and has perhaps established himself as the most dominant interior player in the Big 12 Conference.
Fran Fraschilla, the former Head Coach at St. John’s, Manhattan and New Mexico and current ESPN College Basketball Analyst, called Tshiebwe “the best athlete in the Big 12 Conference.” Fraschilla went on to say that Tshiebwe “certainly fouls some but has caught some officials off guard with his ‘freakness.'”
Fraschilla is absolutely right. Tshiebwe was clearly the better, more complete player when matched up against Kansas Senior Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike is considered one of the top players in the Big 12 Conference, averaging 13.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, while shooting an incredible 81.1% from the field. Azubuike finished the game against the Mountaineers with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, but he also had 5 turnovers and only shot 50% from the foul line. Remember, Azubuike is a Senior and Tshiebwe is only a Freshman, so the fact that Tshiebwe is already more complete and able to physically handle Azubuike is astonishing.
Fraschilla ended his Tweet by saying, “It happens more in high school that a player like that gets penalized for “being big” but usually not in college. This was certainly the case in the Ohio State game, where Tshiebwe spent most of his time in foul trouble and only played 8 minutes against the Buckeyes. Tshiebwe finished with 0 points and 3 rebounds in the upset win in Cleveland and it seemed at times that he was called for fouls for simply being there. His unique combination of strength, size and ability is exceptionally difficult to referee.
Although Tshiebwe currently averages 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, he has been far more dominant than those statistics suggest. Consistency as a Freshman will always be an issue, but Oscar Tshiebwe has already established himself as the most dominant and most difficult player for opposing teams to prepare for in the Big 12.