Sidibe came into Monday night’s contest with just over four minutes left as his team commanded a 31 point lead. The Carrier Dome crowd stood up and lauded at his first appearance of the year. He only attempted one shot and missed. He split a pair of free throws and grabbed one rebound, a tap out to Paddy Casey which resulted in a Cole Swider three.
The big man from Mali hasn’t played meaningful basketball in over 21 months. He tore his left meniscus in the 2020-21 season opener against Bryant and only played in one other game last season, an 11 minute showing at Clemson.
The last time Sidibe saw extended playing time was against North Carolina in the 2020 ACC Tournament when he put up 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“He’s just barely started to practice. I wanted to give him a couple minutes in there,” Jim Boeheim said after the game. “He hasn’t done anything in almost a year and a half now.”
Sidibe, the lone holdover from Syracuse’s 2018 Sweet 16 team, has had two separate knee surgeries during his time at Syracuse. Tendonitis during his freshman year warranted surgery after the season was finished. He played both his sophomore and junior campaigns, but the injury still discouraged his jumping ability from time to time.
The big man returned for his senior year in 2019-20, but a torn meniscus in that same left knee caused him to miss the season with exception to that Clemson game. Despite having a year to recover, knee troubles followed Sidibe into the preseason, where he was expected to miss at least four weeks. He hadn’t seen game action in the eight weeks since.
“I think it’ll take him at least a couple weeks before he can get his legs under him to be a factor,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse has gone to junior center Jesse Edwards in the middle, who’s averaging career highs in points (11.7), rebounds (6.4) and blocks (2.6). Sophomore center Frank Anselem has backed up Edwards off the bench.
Edwards has been foul prone this year, having fouled out in four games this season. Although expecting heavy minutes would be a stretch, Sidibe’s return provides another body in the middle for Syracuse at a position that has recently lacked depth.