Oscar Tshiebwe and His Newfound Celebrity

Morgantown, West Virginia – What’s it like to be a really, really big fish in a really small pond?  What is it like to go from living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a child, moving to the United States and becoming one of the nation’s elite basketball recruits, and then going to a relatively small town obsessed with sports and becoming the biggest, most popular person there?

Ask Oscar Tshiebwe.  Tshiebwe is now one of the most recognizable, admired figures in Morgantown and the entire state of West Virginia.  For someone who just turned 21 years old, that’s a lot of responsibility and pressure.  He is, after all, the perceived savior of the West Virginia basketball program and has a lot of people relying on him to be successful.

Not only that, but Big O has a lot of people in his ear – his coaches, his teammates, his family, random college girls, scouts, agents, girls, and he has to determine and distinguish which people have his best interest at heart and which simply want to use him.

Most want to use him.  He’s a 6’9 freak of an athlete that has an incredibly bright, rich future ahead of him.

And so it came as no surprise to learn that Oscar Tshiebwe let the intensity of all this get to him a bit.  In West Virginia’s opening round game against South Dakota State, ESPN announcers revealed that Bob Huggins said the following to them:

“Oscar enjoyed his newfound celebrity during the summertime.  He had a marvelous freshman season and in the state of West Virginia basketball and football are it, and when you get to be on that stage, you’re going to have an awful lot of eyeballs on you.  But Tshiebwe is back to work now that the season has finally come and he can start his sophomore year.”

The other announcer added, “He (Oscar) did say, in other words, that he could have probably had a more productive summer.”

This, of course, led many to wonder if this was the very reason behind Tshiebwe’s lackluster start to the season.  While he hasn’t exactly been himself through three games, Tshiebwe is averaging 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, including an 11 point, 16 rebound double-double in the 2nd round game against VCU.

Immediately following West Virginia’s championship win in the Crossover Classic, Tshiebwe posted the following message on social media, clearly suggesting that although he was happy with the win, that he has a lot of work to do to get back to being the Oscar Tshiebwe that he’s capable of being: “It’s a good way to start but we have a lot of work to do.  (We) struggled a little bit but it’s good to know what you need to work on.  All love for the Mountaineer Nation.”