Entering the season, the Syracuse Orange appeared to have the best of both worlds at center. Through preseason contests and early opponents, Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe rotated in and out for each other and have racked up 51 blocks combined.
With Sidibe, the Orange could maintain height and rebounding on the interior while picking up greater speed and athleticism. His presence helped limit Chukwu to a hair over 20 minutes per game, which has since picked up to around 28.
Jim Boeheim lauded Sidibe’s defense, particularly his ability to rotate to the corners.
His bench effect did not last long. Since Syracuse’s loss to then-No. 2 Kansas, he’s missed three games and appeared in a limited capacity in the other three, suffering from ankle and knee ailments. After his absence in SU’s win over Eastern Michigan, Boeheim revealed the most worrisome proclamation on Sidibe since his injuries emerged.
“We tried resting him for a week,” Boeheim said. “We’re going to try to see if he can go a little bit ... this Friday, probably the first day. Just to see what it’s like. If he still has a lot of pain we may wait a little longer. We’ll just have to be day-to-day and see. He could redshirt medically right now ... but he can’t play anymore. So we’re not going to play him unless we feel he can play.”
The indication from Boeheim seemed to be that Syracuse could save a year on Sidibe’s eligibility if he’s physically limited going forward this year anyway. Sidibe is still eligible to receive a medical redshirt, and if the team can’t effectively integrate him back before ACC play begins, they’ll still have that option by being cautious about his return now.
To claim a NCAA medical redshirt, a player must meet these requirements:
“A basketball player must sustain an ‘incapacitating injury or illness.’ The injury or illness does not have to be related to basketball, but must take place after the first day of classes in the athlete’s senior year of high school. To gain a medical redshirt for a specific season, the athlete’s illness or injury must occur before the first game of the second half of the team’s schedule. If the team plays an odd number of games, the exact midseason contest is considered part of the second half. For example, if a basketball team plays 25 games, the injury or illness must occur before the start of the team’s 13th game.”
Boeheim announced Sidibe’s knee injury on Nov. 20 after Syracuse’s win over Oakland, the team’s fourth game of the season. Though it’s unclear when it occurred, it certainly happened in the first half of the season.
It’s less clear if he would fit under the 30 percent rule, as he has appeared in 10 of the Orange’s 31 scheduled contests, or 32 percent. The requirement states that redshirts must play less than 30 percent of a team’s games, but rounding may allow him to slide especially since he only appeared against St. Bonaventure for five minutes because Marek Dolezaj and Chukwu fouled out in overtime. He quickly picked up a foul as the Bonnies attacked him head-on, and Boeheim pulled him in short order.
Nine games fits Sidibe in at 29 percent, which explains Boeheim’s hesitancy to push him into games going forward.
“Earlier in the year he had a lot of problems, he was sore, but he was able to play three or four games in a row,” Boeheim said. “We’re hoping that that could happen. But if he can’t, we wouldn’t play him at that point. But we don’t know that, but we’ll wait and see. We have no clue yet.”