Ever since Nike Sibande decided to transfer from Miami, Ohio to Pitt, fans have been itching to see him touch the court in the Blue and Gold.
However, the NCAA had other plans.
In late September, they denied his waiver to play this season. Three games into the season, he has still not heard back on the status of his appeal of the initial denial.
While Sibande is not the only player in the country dealing with this, the list is a very short one. Almost every player who requested a waiver received one, and Pitt head coach Jeff Capel would like to see Sibande on the court as well.
“He’s been incredibly mature about it,” Capel said about how SIbande has handled the unfortunate situation. “Maybe more mature than his head coach. He really really wants to play. It’s been very difficult, especially the first three games. I don’t know the last time he’s not played and just had to sit on the sideline. But he’s been outstanding in practice with trying to help us get better, with pushing guys, with competing, and hoping. Hopeful that an opportunity comes for him to be cleared to play.”
Capel recently received a call from Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann, who at the time was also awaiting a transfer waiver for one of his players. That player was Jimmy Sotos, a Bucknell transfer, whose appeal was approved by the NCAA just last Saturday.
At the time of the call, Sotos had not received his waiver to play. Holtmann mentioned that he was a part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches committee, which is headed by former Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon.
“I actually wrote a letter to the NABC’s Craig Robinson and Troy Hilton in support of transfers especially this year, all of them being eligible to play,” Capel said. “When you look at it, I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
Late last week, news broke that the NCAA would soon be changing its rule and granting all players an immediate eligibility waiver. When asked about this better-late-than-never rule change, Capel confirmed what he had heard about it and gave his support behind it, as expected.
“It’s gonna happen in January,” he said. “It’s coming. They’re going to change the rule, which means that the rule that’s in place is not a good rule. You don’t change it, normally, unless you think it’s not good or not up to date. They’ve given all the kids an opportunity to have an extra year, but most importantly with what’s going on, I just think it makes sense to do it. If you want to have a full season, play as many games as you can, I think one of the ways to help that is to be able to have everyone able to play.”
He also mentioned Syracuse, who has been plagued by virus problems within its program early on in the season. Just last week, the orange received news of a positive COVID-19 test coming from a walk-on. This forced five players to sit out for 14 days due to contact tracing precautions.
“What happens if guys go down with contact tracing? You lose guys,” Capel said. You look at what’s happened to Syracuse, it looks like with contact tracing they’re missing some guys and some teams are shut down. So I just think it just makes sense, especially this year.”