Ahead of Pitt’s first ACC matchup of the season at Miami on Wednesday, head coach Jeff Capel still does not know whether or not guard Nike Sibande would be able to play this season. However, according to a recent report, all players awaiting immediate eligibility waivers may be granted them on or before Wednesday.
While previewing the upcoming contest in Miami, Capel mentioned that Sibande will play if he is cleared by that time.
“If he’s cleared, he’ll play right away,” he said. “I don’t know the timetable of anything. I don’t know anything.”
If Sibande were to be granted eligibility, Pitt, sitting at 4-1 through five games, would receive a major boost in offensive production. He would most likely play the two-guard position and give the Panthers much needed veteran leadership and experience.
“He’d be really good for us,” Capel said about Sibande. “Number one, he provides experience. He’s played on the collegiate level for three years. He’s been a really good scorer at this level. When you score 1,500 points in three years, that’s impressive. He’s very athletic. In practice, he’s made shots. In three years at Miami of Ohio, I think he’s made 175 threes. That’s more than anyone we have. So we think that he could help us there. But just to add more experienced perimeter depth.”
— Nike (@sibande_nike) November 17, 2020
In three seasons at Miami (Ohio), Sibande averaged 15.1 points, 1.4 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. He also received MAC Freshman of the Year honors after his debut season on the collegiate level.
Pitt forward Justin Champagnie, who is coming off two straight 20-point, 20-rebound games, also mentioned how much of an impact Sibande would make this season.
“He would add a lot I think,” Champagnie said. “Being around him and speaking to him a lot during the game, he’s just a leader. He’s just a born leader. You can tell by the way he moves and by the way he carries himself and whatnot. He’s older, he has experience and I just think that having a more experienced guy who played in a different conference will help this team a lot with some guidance.”
Back on Oct. 14, Pitt guard Xavier Johnson spoke on this team’s athletic ability, specifically Sibande, after the team’s first practice.
“This is probably the most athletic school team that I’ve played on,” he said. “Nike? Freaky athletic. He reminds me of Ja Morant. For real.”
With Pitt, Sibande will most likely take on the two-guard spot, rotating with Ithiel Horton. Horton, known for his outside-shooting ability, has struggled early on this season. After scoring 15 against Northern Illinois and knocking down five threes, Horton has gone from 0 for 8 from deep in Pitt’s last two games, dropping his season-long three-point percentage to 29.2%.
“He’s just got to be confident and take good shots,” Capel said about Horton’s recent struggles. “If he takes good shots, we live with the results. If he takes a difficult shot or he hunts because he’s pressing, then that’s something we’ll tell him about. We believe in him, we need him, and we’ve just tried to continue to encourage him.”
Capel also went on to mention Elijah Olaniyi, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season for Stony Brook, who recently transferred to Miami, Pitt’s upcoming opponent. Olaniyi, who is also awaiting an eligibility waiver from the NCAA, is in a very similar situation to Sibande.
“I know Coach Larrañaga made some comments, he has a kid in a similar situation as Nike, a kid from Stony Brook that’s in a similar situation,” Capel said. “I know he made some comments, I think Saturday after their game, about how ridiculous it is that they are waiting. I think he made a comment that it won’t be decided maybe until five o’clock- and we play at six. Hopefully that’s not the case. Hopefully that morning. I would’ve liked for it to have been today just to make a decision because you have some kids around the country that maybe could play today, that maybe could play tomorrow, if they went on ahead and made the decision.”
Pitt opens up conference play against Miami on Wednesday, Dec. 16 in Miami.