The big man from Canada came to Lincoln with plenty of fanfare: the Huskers finally found their center after years of under-sized or under-skilled players filling that role. Tshimanga struggled overall to make the transition to college basketball, but he did put together enough stretches of strong play to give Huskers fans hope for the future.
Tshimanga’s minutes – and his production – fluctuated throughout the season. He played 10 minutes in his first game (and shot 0-of-7 from the field) against Sacramento State, 20 in his second against Mary (with eight points and eight rebounds) and then he bounced between as few as three minutes and as many as 19 over the next 18 games including 10 games with less than 10 minutes of playing time.
Even after Ed Morrow Jr. went down with his foot injury, Tshimanga’s role didn’t immediately change. He played between seven and 12 minutes over the first four games Morrow missed, but with the team struggling, Coach Tim Miles decided to change things up and inserted the freshman into the starting lineup.
Tshimanga started the next nine games before returning to the bench for the last two games, and he averaged 16.9 minutes over those final 11 games after playing 10.2 minutes per game over the first 20 games. Three of his four double-digit scoring games came as a starter.
Part of Tshimanga’s limited minutes were a result of bad match-ups or poor play on his part, but even when he played well he struggled to play extended minutes because of foul trouble. Tshimanga averaged 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes, fouling out twice and committing four fouls in four other games. Too much physicality, being out of position, and slow reaction time all played a part. In other words, he struggled with the speed of the game and the way officials call it at the collegiate level.
Tshimanga was also fairly turnover-prone with a 22.6 percent turnover rate, second on the team only behind fellow freshman Isaiah Roby. Occasionally he would travel trying to execute a scoring move or fail to react to double-teams in time, but the primary source of his turnovers seemed to be the previous issue we covered: fouling. He committed what felt like at least one offensive foul per game, either on a moving screen or while trying to secure post position.
Finally, Tshimanga was pretty hit or miss as a finisher. Shooting less than 45 percent on shots almost entirely around the rim is less than ideal for a 6-foot-11 center. Tshimanga relied on his dominant left hand for the majority of his shot attempts, making him easier to guard, and even with the left he showed a lack of touch on a lot of his hooks or other shots in the paint.
Now that may seem like a lot of negatives, but Tshimanga was raw when he arrived in Lincoln and probably could have used a redshirt season to work on his body and his game. However, Nebraska needed him right away and he did make terrific strides as the season played out.
Tshimanga has prototypical center size, and as the saying goes that’s something you can’t teach. While he did blow more than a few easy looks at times, he also developed into a legitimate post scorer for stretches, showing off a nice left-handed jump-hook as well as an advanced post move here and there. Per minute, he wasn’t far behind Ed Morrow Jr. in terms of rebounding either. He grabbed seven or more rebounds seven times including a season-high 10 boards against Wisconsin on Feb. 9.
Away from the court, Tshimanga has proven to be quite a character and a great teammate as well as an incredibly hard worker by all reports. On the court, Tshimanga strung together stretches of near-dominance, which inspires a lot of hope for the future.
Best Performance: In a 72-61 loss to Michigan State on Feb. 2, Tshimanga played a season-high 24 points scored a season-high 15 points on 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line, grabbed nine rebounds including five on the offensive end and blocked one shot while committing just two personal fouls.
Morrow’s decision to transfer opens the door for Tshimanga to grab hold of a significant role so long as he can learn to avoid fouls and stay on the floor. With Tshimanga on the floor, the Huskers have a player that can match up size-wise against any center the other team throws out there (except maybe Purdue’s Isaac Haas). He provides an option for some interior scoring as well as an effective finisher in the pick-and-roll, strong rebounding and some rim protection.
A reasonable projection for Tshimanga as a sophomore if he is able to progress this summer would be something similar to what Morrow produced this season: somewhere in the area of nine points and seven rebounds while shooting just over 50 percent from the field. The Huskers are going to hit the grad transfer market hard looking for another center to spare any of the power forwards on the roster from having to play in the middle too often, but at this point they’d be more likely to find someone to back Tshimanga up rather than push him back to the bench.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.