The key to Bourama Sidibe’s rim protecting: Catching pigeons

first_img Published on December 3, 2017 at 9:15 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+ Bourama Sidibe has the art of catching birds down pat. He locates a pigeon and makes a hard jab step, which usually scares the bird. When it opens up its wing to fly away, Sidibe makes his move. He pounces to snatch the bird in midair with his outstretched arms. He cuffs it.“When he did it for the first time, we all said, ‘Wow,’” said Sidibe’s coach in Spain, Santi Lopez. “His technique is incredible. He knows the right moment to catch the bird on the fly. It’s really difficult, but I saw it several times. He never missed.”Sidibe, a 6-foot-10 Syracuse freshman originally from Mali in Africa, brings a physical presence to the SU frontcourt, the Orange’s most unproven area. In just more than 18 minutes per game, he averages 4.6 rebounds and just more than one block per game for the Orange (6-1). His ability to alter shots and rebound, despite his thin, 205-pound frame, is rooted not only in basketball training, but in his experience catching birds. Not just any birds, either. Specifically, pigeons.Sidibe said he caught them for years, though he could not pinpoint exactly when he started. It was sometime before he turned 13, back home in Mali, where he grew up. Pigeons are common in North Africa, and Sidibe began catching them near his house to keep them as pets. He said he had a separate birdhouse for them. By that time, he was already taller than 6 feet and quick with his feet. That was important, he said, because adult pigeons are about 35 centimeters (13.78 inches) long, have 70-centimeter (27.56 inch) wingspans and can fly at average speeds up to 77.6 miles per hour, according to the Pigeon Control Resource Center.“When they’re about to take off, I get close to them,” Sidibe said. “Maybe a couple of feet from them. I let them fly up and then I catch them.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAlexandra Moreo | Photo EditorSidibe said he doesn’t know how many pigeons he has caught.“A lot,” he said.The last bird Sidibe caught was a couple of years ago in North Jersey. While walking to get a haircut near St. Benedict’s High School, where former SU first-round NBA Draft pick Tyler Ennis graduated, Sidibe spotted one on the side of the road. He told a teammate he would grab it for fun, then release it.“My friend said, ‘Oh no you can’t,’” Sidibe recalled. “Then I caught it.”Lopez, who lived with Sidibe in Spain, said he has seen the freshman catch several birds near buildings in Spain, on the street or near open areas, including a nearby park. Teammates would bet that Sidibe couldn’t catch the birds. Yet he would do it anyway. They’d pepper him with questions as to how he could possibly catch a pigeon so easily. He said he would just smile.Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorSidibe uses a similar technique while catching birds and blocking shots. He said he lets pigeons take flight, then he makes his move. On the court, Sidibe tempts shooters to get in the lane before he rises up for the block.The arc a pigeon makes when it takes off is not much different from a floater in the lane, he said. Both have a natural trajectory that can be anticipated and timed. Junior center Paschal Chukwu said he works with Sidibe every day on the timing of how to block shots, Sidibe’s greatest strength.“Bourama has very good instincts, and he’s quick,” said Mark Taylor, his coach at St. Benedict’s. “When you’ve got those two, you can be really good, especially in the zone. You start to see a lot of things happening where you can step up and make some good blocks.”Sidibe said his bird-catching abilities help him resist guards who drive in the paint. The skills he picked up in timing birds help him alter shots on the interior and clear rebounding lanes, too.“He has great timing,” sophomore guard Tyus Battle said. “He times the ball, he sees the ball and where it’s going to go up.”Sidibe said he has yet to catch a bird in Syracuse, though he hasn’t ruled out the possibility. For now, he’s focused on altering shots in the frontcourt.“I love catching birds,” Sidibe said, “and I love blocking shots.” Commentslast_img read more