A lot is expected of Oscar Tshiebwe this season for the West Virginia University men’s basketball team, and through the first three games of his collegiate career he has shown flashes of why he was a McDonald’s All-American and the Pennsylvania state player of the year last season, as well as the Big 12’s current preseason Freshman of the Year.
At other times, however, the native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has played a lot like someone still getting used to the college game.
Last week at rival Pitt, Tshiebwe led the way in West Virginia’s win with 20 points and 17 rebounds against the Panthers. In WVU’s other two wins — the season-opener against Akron and on Monday against Northern Colorado — the first-year Mountaineer hasn’t fared as well.
“Oscar played like a freshman,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said Thursday. “He played really well at Pitt, and he didn’t play so well in a couple of other games. It’s going to take some time for him to adjust. I don’t think it’s easy, him playing with another big right now. We’re asking him to do things, quite frankly, he hasn’t done before.”
In the win against Northern Colorado, Tshiebwe played 19 minutes but scored just four points while grabbing seven rebounds.
The expectations remain high because of Tshibwe’s known talent, and he’ll get a chance to bounce back Friday when West Virginia hosts Boston University (7 p.m. on WOWK in Charleston-Huntington) in the second game of the Cancun Challenge and the last before the team departs for next week’s games in Mexico. Still, Huggins said with those expectations it is easy to forget just how new to the game Tshiebwe is.
“I think everybody needs to understand, this is only his third year of basketball,” Huggins said. “He’s not a kid that grew up playing when he was in the fourth grade. This is literally his third season, and the first two he was bigger, stronger and faster than everybody he played against. That’s not the case now.
“So you take a normal freshman who has played all the way through, and their biggest adjustment is size and speed. With [Oscar] it’s a lot of things. So I think his head gets spinning a little bit at times. He’s a great kid, he wants to do the right thing.”
GETTING TO KNOW GABE
WVU got word Wednesday that Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien was granted a waiver and ruled immediately eligible for the Mountaineers, and he is expected to be available for Friday’s game against BU at the WVU Coliseum.
Osabuohien, a 6-foot-7 forward, gives the Mountaineers some things they were not going to get from their other big men — particularly an ability to defend out around the 3-point line. The former Razorback, now a junior with the Mountaineers, also can provide a mismatch against bigger post players, Huggins said.
“He will be our best big to defend on the perimeter,” Huggins said. “I think when people go small, he is a guy with size who can still go out and guard smaller guys. He also really bounces it pretty well, so I think if we get a mismatch with bigger people trying to guard him then we’ll take advantage of his ball-handling skills.”
BIG WIN FOR BOSTON
The Terriers come into Friday’s game against West Virginia off a 78-70 upset win at South Carolina in their first game of the Cancun Classic earlier this week.
BU (3-2) was led by guard Javante McCoy’s 17-point, seven-rebound performance while fellow guards Jonah Harper (13 points) and Alex Vilarino (12 points) also hit double-digits in scoring against the Gamecocks.
“I thought they played really well,” Huggins said of BU’s win against South Carolina. “[They] shot the ball really well, ran good offenses and mixed up their defenses. South Carolina struggled to make shots, but [Boston] played well.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin is a former Huggins assistant who remains close with the veteran Mountaineer coach, but Huggins said he didn’t lean on that connection for any scouting tips or advice about the Terriers after their win against the Gamecocks this week.
“I’d rather talk to Frank when he’s in a good mood,” Huggins said.