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Jim Boeheim on Bourama Sidibe: ‘We’ll plug him in there and see what he can do’

Next man up.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team suffered a blow with Thursday’s news that Jesse Edwards would be out for the remainder of the season with a fractured left wrist.

Edwards had positioned himself well for the ACC’s Most Improved Player award after raising his stats to 12.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in his junior campaign. He was fifth in the country in field goal percentage at 69.1%. The last Syracuse player to win the award was Rakeem Christmas in 2015.

In an Instagram post, Edwards wrote, “Thanks to everyone for the outpouring of well-wishes. Truly the best. Let’s keep this train rolling #alwaysorange.”

Edwards’ junior season has come to an abrupt and unexpected close as he’s expected to undergo season-ending surgery on Friday. In an interview with ESPN Radio Syracuse’s Steve Infanti and Paulie Scibilia, Jim Boeheim said Edwards will have a pin inserted for six weeks. He also said the team will turn to backup Frank Anselem and seldom-used fifth-year senior Bourama Sidibe, who had been a starter in his junior season.

“We’re fortunate that Bourama has been playing in practice,” Boeheim said on Orange Nation. “He’s really had some really good days. We haven’t played him because he had a couple bumps in there when he was playing good. I didn’t want to put him in there for two minutes. That’s not going to help him or help us.

“Because Frank was doing a good job, you know, there were just no minutes to get Bourama comfortable. I think he’s excited. He sees that there are extended minutes there. He hasn’t played in two years, he’s not going to be what we he was when we saw him at the end [of 2020]. But he’s still a good player. He still can play. He understands the game, he understands the system.”

Sidibe returned to Syracuse in the fall for a fifth season after suffering a torn meniscus in the first game of 2020-21, causing him to miss the majority of last season. Sidibe has appeared in four games this season although never playing more than three minutes in any of those games. He’s been hampered with knee troubles in his Syracuse career, including tendonitis in his freshman season which resulted in surgery following the 2017-18 season.

“He’s had a couple good moments in practice,” Boeheim continued of Sidibe. “We’ll plug him in there and see what he can do. Frank has had some really good minutes. He’ll get some more. In certain situations, we’ll play three forwards. John Bol is pretty good in there. He can do some things in the middle. He’s active in there.”

At various points this season (with Edwards in foul trouble), Jimmy Boeheim has played the center position albeit sparingly. John Bol Ajak has played at forward in the minutes he’s received but Syracuse could turn to him for minutes at center as well.

Boeheim followed up on his weekly radio show on Thursday night by saying Sidibe could “easily” go in for 15-20 minutes.

At minimum, Syracuse has options to replace Edwards. Although replacing his production will be trying. In Syracuse’s last home game against Louisville, Edwards had his best game of the season with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He came out of the game around the ten minute mark and finished his night early. As he did, Syracuse fans gave him a loud ovation.

“It felt amazing,” said Edwards of the applause. “I hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience but it was really nice to live in that moment.”