Will Oscar Tshiebwe play in the Kentucky-Michigan State game?

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Kentucky basketball star Oscar Tshiebwe was sidelined following knee surgery in October.

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After Kentucky’s last show last week, John Calipari expressed doubts that Oscar Tshiebwe would be ready in time for the first two games of the college basketball season.

The British coach then said he would be “stunned” if Tshiebwe played Monday night against Howard, “somewhat surprised” if he returned Friday night against Duquesne.

Those games are now over and, of course, there is no sign of Tshiebwe, who underwent knee surgery last month and hasn’t played since.

However, Kentucky didn’t need its reigning National Player of the Year for Howard or Duquesne. The Cats won those games by 32 and 25 points, respectively.

Their next match will likely be a different story.

Kentucky takes on Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis on Tuesday night in what is expected to be the Wildcats’ first major test of the 2022-23 season. The Spartans took No. 2 Gonzaga to the wire on Friday night, ultimately losing to the Zags, 64-63.

Calipari offered no Friday night predictions — positive or negative — about Tshiebwe’s status for the Spartans.

“I don’t know yet,” he said after the game against Duquesne. “He has to do some training, and if he swells or does things, we’ll just have to wait.”

Calipari said Tshiebwe is ahead of his recovery from the October 13 procedure, although he has yet to return to full-contact workouts in team training sessions. British radio analysts Jack Givens and Cameron Mills, who have both been in the gym for recent workouts, said ahead of Friday’s game that Tshiebwe had drilled but did not accompany the team in all-court situations. Givens estimated on Friday’s pre-game show that Tshiebwe’s return schedule would appear to extend beyond the Michigan State game.

“He’s at least a week away,” he said. “Simply because he made no contact.”

However, four days before this match, Calipari has not closed the door to this possibility. After his pessimism last week, that could be a sign in itself.

“We’ll have to see,” Calipari said. “I hope, but I have no idea.”

Daimion Collins Update

Second-year forward Daimion Collins also sat out Friday night.

Collins’ father died suddenly while visiting his son in Lexington last week. The British player flew back to Texas to be with his family last Thursday, returned to Lexington late Monday night – hours after the Cats opened their season – spent a few days with the team, then returned to Texas more early this week. There was a private family ceremony for Collins’ father on Friday, with a funeral scheduled for Saturday.

Ben Collins was 43 years old.

Calipari said on Friday that he and some British staff would fly to Texas on Saturday morning to attend services. First-year guard Cason Wallace, who is Collins’ cousin, was also scheduled to make the trip. They were scheduled to return to Lexington with Collins later in the day on Saturday.

“He left after practice – or as practice was finishing – and all the guys hugged him,” Calipari said. “He has family here, and it’s those players. They all greeted him on his return (Monday evening). He didn’t come in until 11:50 p.m., and they were all waiting for him at the lodge to let him know and hang out with him. So it will be nice to get it back.

The British coach said he wanted to take the whole team with him to Texas this weekend but decided against it due to the busy travel schedule for the next two weeks. The UK travel to Indianapolis for the Champions Classic on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Spokane for the match against Gonzaga on November 20. Just over a week after returning from that trip, the Cats will travel to London for their game. against Michigan on December 4.

Collins is expected to be with the team for the Michigan State game, although it’s unclear whether Calipari will play him there so soon after his return. The United Kingdom will face South Carolina State on Thursday before heading west for the Gonzaga game.

This story was originally published November 12, 2022 6:30 a.m.

Ben Roberts is the University of Kentucky men’s basketball beats author for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He previously specialized in covering basketball recruitment in the UK and created and maintained the Next Cats blog. He is from Franklin County and first joined the Herald-Leader in 2006.
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