Nike Sibande has been one of Miami’s best players ever since he stepped on campus three years ago.
The 6’4” guard has averaged at least 10 points per game every season and even temporarily declared for the NBA draft in 2019 before coming back to Oxford for his junior season.
Last April, however, Sibande entered the transfer portal, eventually deciding to play at the University of Pittsburgh. He filed for a transfer waiver to be able to play for Pitt this season, as opposed to sitting out a year in occurrence with the standard transfer rules.
On the waiver, Sibande cited two reasons for why he had to transfer. One was the birth of his daughter, Oaklynn, who is now with Sibande in Pittsburgh. Oaklynn was born in September, but the star guard didn’t want to transfer in the middle of the semester in case he lost a season of eligibility.
Another reason is the COVID-19 pandemic, as Sibande felt the Pittsburgh area was better equipped to handle an outbreak. An article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out that Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh’s campus, has one hospital bed for 171 residents, while Butler County only has one bed for every 484 residents.
So, to recap: Sibande’s decision to transfer is based on family and safety, two of the most important factors in anyone’s life, especially right now.
It wasn’t good enough, though, as the NCAA denied Sibande’s waiver request.
Usually, if a player’s waiver request is denied, his former team wasn’t willing to support the waiver. That’s exactly what happened, as the RedHawks refused to support Sibande in his efforts to be eligible to play this season.
The 6’4” guard is now appealing the NCAA’s original decision.
It gets worse. Jay Bilas, of ESPN, reached out to Miami basketball coach Jack Owens for an explanation.
Owens explained that in the original waiver request, Sibande alleged Coach O had “run him off” the team and told him there would be no scholarship available for him if he chose to return. Owens said he couldn’t support the request because it simply wasn’t true.
However, the original waiver request supported Sibande’s original reasons for transferring: his daughter and the safety of his family.
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So, not only did Coach Owens not support his former player’s waiver request, it seems like he may have lied about it to Bilas, too.
In the school’s official response to Sibande’s request, it alleged the former Miami guard, “indicated to the coaching staff that he sought a bigger stage on which to prepare for the NBA.”
Which is it? Did Sibande lie about being run off in his original waiver request (which we know isn’t true, since ESPN has access to the documents), or is Sibande seeking a bigger stage for the next level?
After an article from Bilas ran on ESPN, the Miami Athletics twitter account released a statement.
The second paragraph reads, “Miami was presented with a request to support a run-off waiver. The student-athlete was, however, provided an opportunity to return for the 2020-2021 season. For this reason, Miami declined to provide support for that specific waiver argument.”
So, after Bilas’s article disproving Coach O’s claim that Sibande lied on his waiver, instead of apologizing, the school doubled down on the original lie.
This is a bad look for the program, especially for a coach in a contract year like Owens.
Why are the RedHawks doing this? They’re not getting Sibande back, even though they made it clear that he’s welcome to return to the team this year. The easiest thing for them to do is support Sibande’s waiver request and wish him well.
How will this look to recruits? Nike Sibande was a diamond in the rough recruit who gave Miami three years of his career, when he was often one of the team’s only bright spots. Now, when he wants to transfer for a better opportunity for himself and his young family, Miami refuses to support it. If this is how they treat their best players, what about everyone else?
These are the questions Owens and the program will be hearing this season. So far, their response has led to more questions than answers.