The story and career of Bourama Sidibe at Syracuse are very unconventional. Sure, many guys have suffered injuries and bounced back. But, the ups and downs that the grad student has faced are unlike any recent SU player, and we’re going to take a look through his career to where we are today.
The Beginning: 2017-2019
Sidibe came to Syracuse in the class of 2017 as a three-star recruit ranked 190th in his class according to 247 Sports. In his first couple of seasons on the hill, Sidibe did not start a single game in either 2017-18 or 2018-19. 7’2 Paschal Chukwu got that honor, but Sidibe still got between 10-12 minutes a night on average during those first two years.
With Chukwu in foul trouble during Syracuse’s 2018 Round of 32 game against Michigan State, Sidibe played 21 minutes off the bench in the Orange upset win over the third-seeded Spartans.
It should also be remembered that he wore number 35 during his first season at SU, but when Buddy Boeheim arrived on the team a year later, he gave Buddy his father’s number and switched to number 34.
Those first two seasons were relatively uneventful for Sidibe with Chukwu ahead of him, but that Michigan State game set the stage and gave Orange fans a glimpse of what he could do in the future.
The Jump: 2019-20
Despite being undersized at center throughout his career at 6’9, Sidibe has always fought hard. After Chukwu moved on after 2019, Sidibe became the starting center on a new look Orange squad in 2019-20. With four new starters from the year before, SU was not expected to be as good as the past couple of seasons.
Sidibe’s minutes doubled that season. He averaged 24 minutes a game and started all 32 contests for the Orange before the season was shut down due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sidibe did average over four fouls per game in those 24 minutes, his kryptonite, but he rebounded well (almost eight per game) and played strong defense.
The main excitement came over the Orange’s final stretch of 2020. Over the SU’s final six games, Sidibe had at least 10 rebounds in each contest. Along with that, the then-junior center had three games in double-figure scoring as well including 17 in a home loss to North Carolina.
Sidibe took massive strides down the stretch that season, and looked primed for a big 2020-21…
The Fall: 2020-21
After an offseason of COVID-19 quarantines and isolation and limited gym and practice time, Syracuse was finally back ready to start the season around Thanksgiving 2020. Not five minutes into the first game of the season and Sidibe exits. He does not return to the game
It’s a knee injury, something that has bothered him his whole career. The initial announcement is that the injury requires a four-week timeline, but that does not come to fruition. Sidibe plays once again the entire season, and in limited minutes in that Clemson game does not look fit to be on the floor. His senior season is ruined.
Marek Dolezaj starts at center all year for the Orange and Jesse Edwards comes along at the end of the year and looks like the next man to start in the middle of the 2-3 zone. Sidibe watches it all from the sidelines as SU advances to the Sweet 16 for the second time in his career.
The Return to Glory: 2021-22
n the offseason, Sidibe decides he’s going to return to Syracuse for one final season after the NCAA granted all athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. However, speculation arises if Sidibe will be even able to play, especially with the emergence of Edwards late last season.
Then, weeks before the year, an announcement that Sidibe is still having knee trouble and will not be ready to start the season. It’s Jesse Edwards’ job in November, then December. Sidibe finally saw the court for a couple of minutes in late December, but it was nothing major.
Throughout January, Sidibe only appeared twice, for a total of three minutes when games were not close. Then, Edwards goes down. A season-ending wrist injury and the likely most improved player in the ACC is out for the year. Frank Asnselem steps into his place in the starting lineup, but Jim Boeheim states both centers will play.
In the Orange’s next game against Virginia Tech, Sidibe plays foul minutes and commits three fouls, leaving Anselem to play over 35 minutes in his first career start. Was the sophomore going to take all the minutes? Think again.
Against Boston College on Saturday, with Ansleme struggling, Sidibe came into the game and ignited the crowd with hustle players, finishing at the rim, and strong defense. He played 18 minutes, his most in almost two years while scoring two points, with four rebounds and a couple of blocks and steals apiece.
Then, after the BC win, the Orange faced another struggling ACC opponent in Georgia Tech. With the game in overtime, Boeheim said Sidibe “made the play of the game,” when he drove to the basket to give SU a two-point lead.
He may have been in foul trouble all night, but Sidibe never committed that fifth foul and played 16 very important minutes in a must-win for the Orange. Five points and five rebounds is the best stat line for the grad student since 2020, and there are still a couple of games left.
Bourama Sidibe’s story has come full circle. After almost two years away from the court, he’s finally making an impact on the court in Orange again. With four regular-season games left, he has a chance to end his Syracuse career on his terms, not on the bench.