Univ. of Kentucky Basketball Star Oscar Tshiebwe Shares How Relationship With God Deepened After Dad's Murder
The Kentucky Wildcats are hoping to add another championship to their storied legacy this season.
If that happens, Oscar Tshiebwe will be a huge factor. The 6'9" center is leading the nation in rebounds, and he's a front-runner for the National Player of the Year Award.
At 6’9” and nearly two hundred and sixty pounds, Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe is a monster on the court and dreams of one day playing in the NBA.
Oscar says, “That's why – God – and I told him, ‘I want to be NBA player. I want to get there. I want to help other people and help my family. But I cannot get there by myself.’”
Oscar grew up in a poor family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His dad modeled a lifestyle of giving and serving and encouraged his son to do the same.
Oscar says, “I used to ask him, ‘You don't have enough, why you trying to help everybody like them?’ He said, ‘No, because that's what God want us to do because everything I have, I'm not going to take anything. I gotta help.’"
Will Dawson: "Oscar, one look at you and I know that you're a basketball player."
Oscar: "Yes sir."
Will: "But soccer was your first love."
Oscar: "Yes. I grew up with soccer. It's the most popular sport in Africa. I play since I was a kid and I had a, like dream, myself might become big one day in soccer. But it turned out from something else, God had something else bigger than what I was thinking."
Oscar’s rise from the Congo soccer fields to one of the country’s most elite college basketball programs is an American dream. However, years earlier as a twelve-year-old boy, Oscar’s life became a nightmare. One day in 2012 his father and role model was poisoned; his killer, never brought to justice.
Will: "What do you remember about the day that that happened?"
Oscar: "The day, what I remember, because he told me a lot of good things before he passed, like 30 minutes before he passed he said, 'Grab a chair.' I grab a chair and I sit right there and he started talking to me. He said, 'Don't ever forget about God no matter where you go because – don't lose God because when you lose God, you lose your life. Always listen to what I’m telling you. You gotta take care of your family.' I was like, 'why are you telling me all this?' But he was like – 'I'm just telling you because you are the only kid always listen to what I'm telling you.'”
Oscar’s immediate response to his father’s death was disbelief and anger.
“I was mad at God. I asked God, ‘Why this has to happen?’ I asked him, I said, ‘If God, He really want good people to help each other. So why you taking my dad so fast?’ because my daddy was helping a lot of people that did not have enough. I was mad, but the more I spent time with God, asking God questions, he revealed, like he told me why He always taking good people and He always let bad people to live longer."
The loss of his father became the catalyst for a deeper relationship with God.
“I said, ‘No, maybe I need to give my heart to God. Maybe I need to pay attention,' because my daddy always told me, ‘no matter what happens in your life, don't let that thing affect your relationship with God, because God has great plans for your life and your dream,’ because he use to tell me, ‘His purpose for your life is to give you hope and good future.’”
With his mom struggling to provide, Oscar worked hard to become better at basketball. At 15, he came to the U.S. to play high school ball. However, success wasn’t immediate and Oscar had his doubters.
Oscar says, “I had no family, I could not speak any English. We could not communicate with anybody. Most of the people think like I was going to fail; I was going to go back home. People making fun of me, people come and making fun of me. I don't even know what they say. My coach never wanted to play me in high school my first two years, he told me, ‘You are the worst player we ever had. Like good luck with that.’ I told him, ‘I will play for Kentucky one day.’ They laugh. They make a joke. But I went back in the scripture, read, but the scripture told us anything is possible to those who work hard and believe in God."
Oscar continues, "And I say, ‘What is the – why the Bible say, anything is possible, but everybody here told me it's impossible for me to get there?’ I say, ‘I will stick with the Word of God. I don't care what people say. I'm going to stick with the Word of God. If I'm going to fail, I'm going to fail with the Word of God.’"
In January 2021, after two years at the University of West Virginia, Oscar became one of the most sought-after transfers in college basketball and signed with his dream school, the University of Kentucky.
“When I stuck with the Word of God about everything is possible to those who spend the time, work harder, and believe in God, I'm in Kentucky right now. That's why I know I can do more things with God because everything God has given us is possible,” says Oscar.
He’s one step closer to the NBA, a future that would give Oscar the freedom to care for his mother in Africa, honor his late father, and follow whatever else God might have in store for him.
Oscar says, “God has told me He's got great things for me. He told me like, "spend time with me. I'm going to teach you something new, like every day.’ Like my dream, beside playing in NBA, doing everything like -I want to be a speaker. I want to speak for God. I want to stand and like, help a lot of different people. I want to go back home and help. Help. I want to be the example of what my daddy did. My daddy did from not having a lot of money, but if I have money, I think I can do better. I can do better. I'm going to help somebody else. I'm going to – I'm going to try to change the world. Yeah.”
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