When Syracuse hosts Canisius on Tuesday night, the Orange will again be without Brittney Sykes. Coach Quentin Hillsman made it clear that his star guard would be back in the lineup if it was his decision.
"If I was a doctor, she would be playing right now," Hillsman said Thursday. "She's in."
Sykes needed reconstructive surgery after tearing her right ACL and meniscus in March. Throughout the preseason, Hillsman emphasized that he'd only play Sykes when she was "100 percent". But, now he's started to see signs that Sykes is ready for game action. She's played in contact drills in practice, participated in half-court scrimmages and, at one point, jumped up and touched the backboard.
To put it simply, she's passed Hillsman's "eye test".
"She's back," Hillsman said. "As far as I'm concerned, she looks good. She looks normal."
Last week, Sykes passed one milestone when team doctors approved her to participate in full-contact drills in practice. But they haven't cleared her for game activity just yet.
"She's cleared for full contact right now, but she's not cleared to play," Hillsman said. "I don't understand exactly what that means."
Hillsman couldn't explain what Sykes would have to do to clear that final hurdle and said that questions of clarification to team doctors went unanswered.
"They just say she's close," he said.
Last season, Sykes averaged 16.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and earned All-ACC honors. She's missed all eight of Syracuse's games this season. When asked for a timetable for return, Hillsman said it's very likely Sykes will be activated sometime during non-conference play.
"Whenever she gets fully cleared for games, she can," Hillsman said. "But she's cleared for contact in practice now so obviously contact is good."