One Rebound at a Time, Oscar Tshiebwe Has Electrified a City—and a Sport

Teammates, opponents, coaches and alike all marvel at ’s record-setting rebound totals. His 20 rebounds against in the team’s season opener made a statement, but the 28 he snatched against Western was his true coming-out party as one of the sport’s biggest stars. He averages more rebounds per game (15.3) than any player has in at least the last 30 years and tops the nation in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate, per KenPom. While he won’t surpass some of the seemingly unbeatable rebounding totals players from the 1950s and ’60s posted, his season this year will go down as one of the more impressive statistical seasons of the 2000s.

Those eye-popping stats have earned Oscar rock-star status in Lexington, almost 8,000 miles away from where he first picked up a basketball in the Congo. It’s why swarm him after every game hoping for an autograph, where he signs for as long as he’s allowed to by and stadium staff. With new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules, Tshiebwe could easily sign autographs exclusively for money. But even after Tshiebwe recently received clearance to make NIL deals after a complex process due to his immigration status as an F1 student visa recipient, you’ll still find him out signing autographs postgame and not asking for a dime in return.

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