Mountaineer fans were understandably left unsatisfied after the 2018-2019 men’s hoops season. For the first time in six years, West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament, instead making a second round exit in the CBI to close out a 15-21 season full of losses, dismissals and transfers.
Bob Huggins followed it up by bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in his West Virginia tenure, headlined by McDonald’s All-American Oscar Tshiebwe, the eighth-ranked center in the nation. After the down season just a year ago, there is a lot of talk about what his immediate impact might be on the Mountaineers.
“Particularly with last season, I think everybody expects him to come in and be the savior, and fortunately he doesn’t,” Huggins said. “He just wants to get better, he loves playing basketball…and that’s a good thing.”
Having not played a game yet in college, he still has a lot of adjusting to do — especially since he was a dominant force in high school.
“They’ve completely changed my game from high school level to college since I’ve been up here,” Tshiebwe said. “High School, what I’m gonna say, was not really competition for me. But I get up here, I’ve got to match up with DC [Derek Culver], Logan [Routt] all the time, it’s not easy to score on them.”
He’s far from the only basketball player to come to Morgantown carrying a lot of attention. What makes Tshiebwe unique, though, is his handling of it.
Since he’s relatively new to the game (he first picked up a basketball in May of 2014, when he was 14), he uses the expectations as motivation to get better.
“I put in much work. They give me video I’ve got to watch, I go over the playbook all the time,” Tshiebwe said. “If I have a question, I ask it to Coach, because I want to know that stuff. That’s why I’m always in the gym, always watching video with Coach, I’ve got to know this stuff.”
Even though he’s been in Morgantown for a few months, Tshiebwe says he’s already getting recognized out in public.
“The experience has been so good, everybody knows who I am,” he said. “I’m out on campus and people run in to me, like, ‘Oscar, Oscar, we can’t wait to watch you play.’ People are going crazy. I’ve just been nice and I’m enjoying everything.”
Away from the public, Huggins says he’s handling his newfound fame well.
“Oscar is a very level-headed kid,” he said. “And I think, if anything, it’s made him hungrier to be better because he knows he’s behind in a lot of areas.”