UK’s Tshiebwe anticipates returning for opener


Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe answers a question during the school's NCAA college basketball media day in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe answers a question during the school's NCAA college basketball media day in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)


FILE - Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky speaks as he is introduced as The Associated Press men's basketball player of the year, in New Orleans, Friday, April 1, 2022. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)


FILE - Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, right, drives to the basket ahead of Saint Peter's forward Fousseyni Drame (10) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Indianapolis. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky forward and consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe said on Tuesday he “absolutely” anticipates being ready for the No. 4 Wildcats’ season opener — after having a procedure on his right knee earlier this month.

The 6-foot-9 senior spoke publicly for the first time since Wildcats coach John Calipari announced on social media that the player would have a “minor” procedure on the knee to “clean some things up.”

Tshiebwe entered the practice court for media day without crutches, but wore a flexible brace on the knee over colorful compression tights.

As usual, Tshiebwe was upbeat and optimistic.

“To be honest, I don’t think I will miss games other than exhibition games because it’s not really necessary that I get this done,” he said.

The Associated Press preseason All-America selection averaged 17.4 points and a nation-leading 15.1 rebounds per game last season on the way to being named the AP’s Player of the Year and sweeping the other five national awards as college basketball’s best player.

The native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he returned for another season to help Kentucky win the national championship, and broaden his game toward boosting his stock for next year’s NBA draft.

He looked dominant during a team workout before NBA scouts on Oct. 9, but was held out of the preceding and following practices before being examined.

Tshiebwe underwent surgery that week and missed Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness public practice — along with last Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage in Pikeville to benefit flood victims.

Calipari had no timetable for Tshiebwe’s return, but said he’s moving around and just has to stay off his feet.

Kentucky hosts Howard on Monday, Nov. 7.

“When he trains it may swell, but it goes away and for the time being that’s what it is,” the Hall of Fame coach added. “But he’s telling me, ‘I’m feeling good, my leg feels good, I don’t have the same pain that was there.’

“We’re not going to hold him back, but we’re not going to push him forward, either.”

Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe answers a question during the school’s NCAA college basketball media day in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_130016484-df0a9947061d457897db8ed63549df75.jpgKentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe answers a question during the school’s NCAA college basketball media day in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

FILE – Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky speaks as he is introduced as The Associated Press men’s basketball player of the year, in New Orleans, Friday, April 1, 2022. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_130016484-6e5a7044e35f453d827dd39679b93b92.jpgFILE – Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky speaks as he is introduced as The Associated Press men’s basketball player of the year, in New Orleans, Friday, April 1, 2022. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE – Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, right, drives to the basket ahead of Saint Peter’s forward Fousseyni Drame (10) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Indianapolis. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_130016484-3d3fe1acf413433aaedded863c82c998.jpgFILE – Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, right, drives to the basket ahead of Saint Peter’s forward Fousseyni Drame (10) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Indianapolis. Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)