Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe, last season's consensus men's basketball National Player of the Year, has bounced back quicker than expected from a recent knee procedure but will not participate in an exhibition this weekend, coach John Calipari told reporters Wednesday.
Calipari said he saw Tshiebwe around the basketball facility after the procedure and laughed, telling him, "You're supposed to be swollen; you're supposed to be on crutches for a week."
Speaking at the SEC Tipoff event in Alabama, Calipari said he would be cautious with Tshiebwe's recovery.
"I'll keep him out longer than he probably should," he said. "But he's pretty resilient. We'll see."
Calipari also addressed Tshiebwe's decision to return to school despite having won the Naismith Player of the Year, NABC National Player of the Year, Pete Newell Big Man of the Year and Wooden awards last season.
Tshiebwe, who started his career at West Virginia before transferring to Kentucky, averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds last season.
"The issue became, where was he projected to be drafted? And NIL," Calipari said, referring to players' ability to earn money from use of their name, image and likeness. "I've said to all you guys: The NIL will keep guys in school that would have left. That's what's happened in men's basketball."
But Calipari said he warned Tshiebwe, "If you're coming back for a redo, you shouldn't come back."
"All right, you came back, you've got to be better," he said. "We know you rebound. You've got to be able to guard better positions. You've got to be able to pass and dribble. You've got to be a better basketball player."
Calipari said the feedback he got from scouts at Kentucky's pro day was that Tshiebwe had improved.
Kentucky, ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, was picked by the media to finish first in the SEC this season.
Tshiebwe was predicted to repeat as SEC Player of the Year. He and teammate Sahvir Wheeler were named to the preseason All-SEC first team.
Kentucky opens the season against Howard on Nov. 7.