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John Calipari would be ‘stunned’ if Oscar Tshiebwe plays in Kentucky opener

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Kentucky coach John Calipari said he would be “stunned” if preseason All-American Oscar Tshiebwe, who is recovering from a knee procedure, is available to play in the team’s season opener on Monday against Howard.

Calipari also suggested that Tshiebwe, who he said had a “minor” procedure in October, might miss additional time after that game.

“I would be stunned if he played Monday,” Calipari said after his team’s 111-53 exhibition win over Kentucky State. “I would be somewhat surprised if he played Friday [against Duquesne].”

In a video he tweeted this week, Calipari told Kentucky fans to be patient because the team is “not where we need to be” and might not live up to its top-five preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll. He also said the Wildcats might endure a shaky stretch in November and December.

On Thursday, Calipari said starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler (10.1 PPG, 6.9 APG last season) might not play in the first game as he recovers from a knee injury. With five-star recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston joining a collection of returning talent that includes Tshiebwe, Wheeler and Jacob Toppin, Kentucky is expected to compete for a national championship.

Although Tshiebwe said recently that he anticipated playing in the team’s opener next week, nothing official from the school has backed that claim. At last month’s Big Blue Madness, the men’s and women’s basketball team’s midnight madness event, Tshiebwe needed assistance as he walked up and down the stairs to the stage. He also used crutches.

Tshiebwe, who won the Wooden Award last season after averaging 17.4 PPG and 15.2 RPG, could become the second player to win the honor twice following Ralph Sampson Jr., who won the award in 1982 and 1983.

Calipari said he’ll have to clear Tshiebwe himself before he allows him to return to the court.

On Nov. 15, Kentucky will face Michigan State in Indianapolis in the Champions Classic.

“It’s mainly a pain threshold and he’s just not normal,” Calipari said about Tshiebwe. “If he wanted to play Monday, I probably wouldn’t let him. He needs a few more days. If he wants to play Friday, I’m going to have to work him out myself and see. And if I did, he’d probably play 10 or 15 minutes just to get his legs under him.”

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