Oscar Tshiebwe, Drew Timme top AP preseason All-America team

Oct 24, 2022, 9:00 AM | Updated: 9:46 am
FILE - Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, right, drives to the basket ahead of Saint Peter's forward ...

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)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Oscar Tschiebwe was the consensus men’s college basketball player of the year last season, an accomplishment usually followed by a jump to the NBA.

Kentucky’s big man decided to take a different route. He’s coming back — and he may be even better this season.

“He’s a better passer. He’s a better dribbler. He has a better feel. He talks,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Offensively he knows the plays better. And he’s authentic.”

Tshiebwe was a unanimous selection along with Gonzaga big man Drew Timme in The Associated Press preseason All-America team released Monday. They were joined by North Carolina forward Armando Bacot, Houston guard Marcus Sasser and Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis on the team selected by a 59-person media panel that votes on the weekly AP Top 25.

Tshiebwe is the ninth AP national player of the year — Bill Walton and Ralph Sampson did it twice — to return for another season, according to Sportradar, and the first since Tyler Hansbrough came back to lead North Carolina to a national title in 2009.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats are hoping Tshiebwe can do the same for them.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward from the Congo led the nation in rebounding at 15.1 per game while averaging 17.4 points. He shot 60% from the field, had 60 steals and 55 blocks, and finished the season with 16 consecutive double-doubles on the way to a school-record 28.

Instead of taking his game to the NBA, Tshiebwe opted to return when projections had him going in the second round of the 2022 draft.

“They (NBA scouts) want my game to expand a little bit,” said Tshiebwe, who started his career at West Virginia. “They want me to be able to make one or two 3-pointers, They want me to catch the ball, drive and finish, and get better in dribbling.”

Timme made a similar decision — two years in a row. The 6-10 senior was one of the nation’s best big men each of the past two seasons, leading the Zags on deep NCAA runs, including a trip to the national title game in 2021. He was a second-team All-American for the second straight season a year ago after averaging 18.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Timme still had areas of his game he wanted to work on before heading to the NBA and hoped for one more shot at winning a national title with the second-ranked Zags. The NCAA’s name, image and likeness deals made it an easier decision and, besides, college life is a lot of fun.

“We have a chance to do something special, I wanted to get my degree, there’s things I want to work on, I want to build on,” Timme said. “It was a culmination of a lot of things, but I really enjoy being a college kid.”

Bacot also has a chance to do something special with the Tar Heels.

The 6-11 forward tied the NCAA record with 31 double-doubles last season and became the first to have six in the same NCAA Tournament while leading North Carolina to the national title game. The Tar Heels lost to Kansas, but are No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25 and among the favorites to win it all with Bacot back.

“I don’t go a day where we’re not like saying, man, we can’t wait to get to that,” Bacot said of winning a national title. “Maybe that’s not the best approach, but I mean, we’re human.”

Sasser was a key cog two years ago during the Cougars’ first Final Four run since the Phi Slama Jama days, averaging 13.7 points while playing menacing defense.

The dynamic 6-2 guard got off to a strong start last season, but was limited to 12 games after breaking a bone in his left foot. He was named the American Athletic Conference preseason player of the year and a big reason the Cougars are ranked No. 3 in the AP preseason poll.

“It puts a target on your back every night, but it also gives me motivation every day in practice to go out there and work harder,” Sasser said.

Jackson-Davis was a preseason All-American last season and led the Hoosiers in scoring (18.3) and rebounding (8.1). The 6-9 forward also helped Indiana reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years, but the run ended with a first round loss to Saint Mary’s.

With Jackson-Davis back, the No. 13 Hoosiers are the favorites to win the Big Ten and, they hope, make a deep March run.

“I think I have kind of set the stone of my individual legacy, being an All-American and doing all of those things, but those don’t really matter if you don’t win something here,” he said. “Winning is a big thing here, so winning a national championship and also winning a Big Ten title, those are my two main goals this year.”

___

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              FILE - Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis speak to the media during Big Ten NCAA college basketball Media Days Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Minneapolis. Jackson-Davis was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)
            
              FILE - Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (23) tries to get around the defense of St. Mary's forward Matthias Tass, right, during the second half of a first-round NCAA college basketball tournament game, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Portland, Ore. St. Jackson-Davis was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)
            
              FILE - Houston guard Marcus Sasser is shown on the court during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against SMU, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Houston. Sasser was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.(AP Photo/Justin Rex, File)
            
              FILE - Houston guard Marcus Sasser drives the ball against Texas State guard Shelby Adams during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021, in Houston. Sasser was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.(AP Photo/Justin Rex, File)
            
              FILE - North Carolina basketball player Armando Bacot pauses before he threw out a ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, Friday, May 20, 2022, in Baltimore. Bacot was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
            
              FILE - North Carolina forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks against Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C. Bacot was named to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.(AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)
            
              FILE - Gonzaga forward Drew Timme speaks at a news conference for the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 23, 2022.  Timme was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
            
              FILE - Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) grabs a rebound against Arkansas during the first half of a college basketball game in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament in San Francisco, Thursday, March 24, 2022.  Timme was a unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
            
              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)

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Oscar Tshiebwe, Drew Timme top AP preseason All-America team