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Nike Sibande out for season after suffering ACL tear

Pitt shooting guard Nike Sibande suffered a torn ACL in his team’s 89-64 win over Gannon in an exhibition game on Monday night. As a result, Sibande will miss the season as he recovers from the injury to his knee.

“I am really disappointed for Nike,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “He has been outstanding in his preparation for this season and has emerged as one of the most respected leaders in our program. He has done an amazing job dealing with adversity in the past, and I am confident he will tackle his recovery in the same manner. He has attacked adversity by putting in the work, trusting his faith, and maintaining confidence in himself as a person and as a player. We will miss him on the court this season, but I know Nike will remain an important part of our program through his leadership and presence in the locker room.”

The injury impacted Sibande’s right knee and was suffered early in the game after contact between Sibande and a Gannon player. At first, the injury did not appear to be serious, as Sibande was able to make it to the locker room without assistance. However, later in the game, it was revealed that he would not return. And after the game, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said Sibande’s status was unknown.

The loss is one Pitt could hardly afford, as Pitt saw five players leave the program earlier this year, including four regular starters. That meant Sibande was going to be leaned on as a key contributor this season, and his absence will deprive the Panthers of one of their best players. Last season, during Pitt’s final five games, Sibande averaged 15.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while playing in an expanded role on the team.

In addition, the team is already expected to be without Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton for an uncertain number of games, as he underwent a procedure to address swelling and discomfort in his knee in October. Burton’s initial recovery timeline was said to be four to six weeks, so he is likely to return early in the campaign. But no exact date has been set.

With Sibande out, William Jeffress is expected to see an uptick in minutes. Early in the season, he will be joined by Femi Odukale, who will play a key role in the Pitt backcourt in Burton’s absence. Pitt's season is set to get underway on Nov. 9, with a matchup against the Citadel at the Petersen Events Center.