Huggins on Tshiebwe’s departure: “What do we do going forward? We’re gonna win more games.”

WVU Basketball

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Star forward Oscar Tshiebwe has left WVU men’s basketball, and there’s no chance he’ll return to the program, according to the team’s head coach. 

Though an initial statement from the program said that Tshiebwe was “stepping away” from the team, Bob Huggins confirmed Friday during a video conference that the sophomore will not suit up in gold and blue again. 

“No, absolutely not,” Huggins said. “No return.” 

To fans of the team, it’s a stunning development involving a player who was named to the Big 12’s preseason all-conference roster, but Huggins admitted he wasn’t shocked by Tshiebwe’s departure. 

“Did it catch me by surprise? No,” Huggins said. “What do we do going forward? We’re gonna win more games.” 

As the Mountaineers (8-2, 1-1) prepare to resume Big 12 action Saturday vs. Oklahoma, this roster shakeup will inevitably lead to opportunities for more of Huggins players, but the timing of Tshiebwe’s departure compounds another of the squad’s roster concerns. In Tuesday’s win over Northeastern, freshman Isaiah Cottrell sustained an achilles injury and will miss the remainder of the season. 

Still, Huggins is confident in the talent that will make the trip to Oklahoma for a two-game road swing. As he put it, those are the athletes who want to play. 

“We got guys who have worked their butts off, and worked heir butts off all summer to get an opportunity,” Huggins said. “I am more than confident that they will do a great job for us, so why would we screw that up?” 

The head coach added: “I don’t wanna talk about Oscar, I wanna talk about our team. I wanna talk about the guys that are here who have worked their tails off all summer long, continued to work when we didn’t know whether we were gonna play or not. Those guys deserve all the credit in the world, and I’m sure they’re chomping at the bit to get an opportunity to show what they can do.” 

Without Tshiebwe, Huggins said the remaining talent on his roster provides the flexibility to “do a lot of things,” depending on the opponent. He’s also confident that junior forward Derek Culver — who ranks second in the Big 12 in rebounding, fourth in shooting percentage and is nearly averaging a double-double for the season — will maintain his stellar production. 

“Let’s tell the truth,” Huggins said. “He’s the best big in the league. Derek, by far, is the bet big in the league, so to have him [isolated] down there is not a bad thing.” 

These new developments in Tshiebwe’s saga are in some ways reminiscent of those of another Kennedy Catholic product at WVU. During the 2018-19 season, star forward Sagaba Konate appeared in just eight games before sitting out the remainder of the campaign — though Konate did struggle with a knee injury that season. 

Konate entered the NBA Draft tha summer, went undrafted, and then signed a deal with the Raptors. He played for the club’s G-League affiliate for a brief spell, and now plays for POAK of the Greek Basket League. 

In this case, Tshiebwe, who became a McDonald’s All-American at Kennedy Catholic in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, departs WVU hoops after 10 games in the 2020-21 campaign. He averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. 

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