West Virginia’s Tshiebwe leaves team for personal reasons

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe has left the team for personal reasons and with no plans to return this season. His absence is a blow to the ninth-ranked Mountaineers heading into the heart of the Big 12 schedule.

“Did it catch me by surprise? No,” coach Bob Huggins said during a conference call Friday. “What do we do going forward? We win more games.”

Huggins didn’t specify why Tshiebwe left or why the coach felt the move wasn’t unexpected. When asked if there was a chance the 6-foot-9 Congolese sophomore would return, Huggins said, “No, absolutely not. No return.”

Huggins said Tshiebwe has the team’s full support.

Tshiebwe’s production has slipped this season after he led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman a year ago. He’s fifth on the team in scoring this season and was questioned about his confidence after a 73-51 win over Northeastern on Tuesday.

“Most of the time when I do think, I think too much,” Tshiebwe said. “I had a really good conversation with coach Huggins. He said, you don’t need to think. Make a play. Now I know what I got to do to dominate. You just need to play hard. That’s the game I always need to play.”

Tshiebwe, named to the preseason all-Big 12 team, was averaging 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 10 games. He’s the second West Virginia forward lost in the past week. Backup freshman Isaiah Cottrell sustained a season-ending Achilles tendon injury against Northeastern.

Huggins eventually cut off questions concerning Tshiebwe and set his attention on his other players and the Big 12 schedule, starting with Saturday when West Virginia (8-2, 1-1 Big 12) plays at Oklahoma (5-2, 1-1).

“Personally, I’m excited for what those guys can do,” Huggins said.

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