Sophomore big man Oscar Tshiebwe had a very successful freshman season. But he can’t help but keep going back to something in his mind that his father always told him.
“Just because you deserve something doesn’t mean they’re just going to give it to you,” he said.
The phrase kept repeating over and over and it stuck with him. The sophomore knew that if he wanted to take that next step it was going to require the proper work on and off the floor.
So, sporting a new blonde hairdo, Tshiebwe did just that. And now he’s hoping to also bring some new things to the court along with him during his sophomore campaign.
“I was just working out. I knew the things that were missing on my game, so I was trying to get my feet moving and my jump shots,” he said.
Tshiebwe, who requested an NBA evaluation, spent the summer laser-focused on trying to improve what he could control on the court. That meant expanding his range with 15-17-foot jumpers and improving his passing abilities. He also worked on refining his post moves and other areas.
Because the NBA Draft process was so different this past season, Tshiebwe instead relied on head coach Bob Huggins for guidance. That helped steer him in the direction of looking to improve. Which is saying something considering he finished last year meeting essentially all expectations.
After becoming only the second McDonald’s All-American in school history out of high school Tshiebwe was named to Big 12 All-Freshman Team and named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team. He finished averaging 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and was still figuring many aspects out on the floor.
The transition itself was a difficult one, but he was able to play against some of the other big men on the team and quickly acclimate to what was needed of him at the next level. That also meant learning to take his time and finish strong in the post to allow everything else to take care of itself.
“It’s a testament to what Oscar did and how impressive he was a year ago. The challenge now is to continue to get better and continue to climb,” Huggins said.
So that’s what he’s done in areas that needed to get better.
One of those is in the realm of spacing, where at times Tshiebwe and fellow post-made Derek Culver struggled on the floor that has been a point of emphasis this off-season.
“If I see him post up, I cannot go down. I have to stay high low,” Tshiebwe said.
It seems simple enough, but those are the areas that are going to make the Mountaineers much more effective with both on the floor. The two have practiced largely on the same team which has allowed them to understand where to go and to not cram up the post.
And to the watchful eye of their head coach, improvements are being made.
“I don’t think that’s the problem. Them running into each other trying to get the same rebound is,” Huggins said. “Their understanding of that has been pretty good.”
While teams would leave Tshiebwe alone on those elbow jumpers last year, he is hoping the same thing occurs this year due to the work that he’s put in to consistently make that shot.
Tshiebwe returned to West Virginia with one goal in mind and now, he’s hoping the hard work that he poured into this off-season will pay off.
“I have to worry about winning a championship this year and then think about something else,” he said.