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Nike Sibande in Line for Substantial Increase in Role

Nike Sibande in Line for Substantial Increase in Role

With the loss of Justin Champagnie to injury for 6-8 weeks, Pitt will have to find reliable scoring options outside of Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney. One of the most likely options is Nike Sibande, who is already seeing his role increase drastically after two games played. 

Ahead of Pitt’s first ACC matchup of the year against Miami, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel spoke on what the Panthers would be getting with the addition of the 6-foot-4 Sibande. 

“He’d be really good for us,” Capel stated. “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.”

In his first game for Pitt, Sibande played just eight minutes, scoring three points and grabbing two rebounds in the win against Miami. Just 12 seconds after checking in for the first time in a Pitt uniform, Sibande came down the court and drained a three, giving Pitt an early lead. However, he failed to score again in the game and finished with just as many turnovers as points.

Before Tuesday night’s game at Duke, head coach Jeff Capel spoke on Sibande’s start to the season. 

“I don’t know what I envisioned,” Capel said about what role he initially imagined Sibande to play this season. “I knew it was going to be difficult coming in right into the ACC, not having an opportunity to get games under his belt and to get into a rhythm. So I knew that would take a little bit of time for him. Especially throwing him right in Dec. 16, finding out 55 minutes before tipoff.”

In his second game in a Panthers uniform, Sibande cracked the starting lineup after wings Justin Champagnie and Au’Diese Toney were both forced to sit out due to injury. Sibande played a much larger role in that game, although Pitt did not come out on top. He played 25 minutes, finishing with eight points, two assists, and three rebounds in the ten-point loss to the Cardinals. 

Champagnie, ahead of the Miami game, also praised Sibande for his experience and his leadership qualities. 

“Being around him and speaking to him a lot during the game, he’s just a leader,” he said. “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.”

When asked if his plan for Sibande changed when Champagnie went down with a knee injury, Capel said that “nothing changed.” 

“We need him to be a good player,” he said. “We need him to step up, just like we need everyone to do that.”

Nike Sibande (22) December 22, 2020 – Photo by David Hague/PSN

Sibande will look to provide a spark for the Panthers Saturday afternoon as they take on Notre Dame at 2 p.m. on ACC Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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