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Mississippi State Must Learn to Play With Renardo Sidney In the Lineup

Mississippi State takes on the #20 Texas A&M Aggies tonight in a matchup of soon-to-be SEC foes. But the Bulldogs need to recover from a loss to Akron last week, and they’re going to have to figure out how to do it with Renardo Sidney in the lineup. After his team’s loss to Mississippi State, South Alabama coach Ronnie Arrow said the Bulldogs are better off with Sidney on the sidelines. “They’re a very explosive team, especially without Sidney in there,” Arrow said. “They’re much quicker, and they get up the court really well. They played with a lot of confidence without him.”

Sidney Returns to the Bulldogs Lineup Tonight Against Texas A&M

Even Rick Stansbury acknowledges that Sidney has a ways to go in terms of conditioning. An even more telling statistic is the fact that Stansbury sat Sidney during crucial points of a close game against EKU and a loss against Akron. Sidney sat for the final 4:39 of the EKU win and the final 4:29 of the Akron loss. His coach doesn’t trust him in the clutch.

Mississippi State was a far more efficient team in Sidney’s absence. According to, The Bulldogs offensive efficiency ratings (the number of points a team would score over 100 possessions) are as follows:

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20 Questions: Will Renardo Sidney Get In Shape and Behave This Year?

Brian Joyce is an SEC microsite writer and a regular contributor.  He can be reached @bjoyce_hoops on Twitter.

Question: Will Renardo Sidney Get In Shape and Behave This Year?

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is cautiously optimistic that troubled big man, Renardo Sidney, is on the road to redemption. Sidney has had numerous difficulties ranging from weight and conditioning issues, well documented fights with teammates, and even questions over his amateur status due to receiving improper benefits before stepping foot on the Starkville campus. Mo’ money has meant a lot mo’ problems for Renardo Sidney.

Renardo Sidney Behaving Himself

ISSUE 1: CONDITIONING – Now there is reason for Bulldog fans to be hopeful. Sidney lost 23 pounds over the summer while working out with former NBA star John Lucas. The weight loss has helped the 6’10” power forward improve his conditioning so far this year. He is actually finishing conditioning drills, according to Stansbury. “That doesn’t mean he was winning every race,” his coach says, “but he made it through it. For him, that’s a step in the right direction. We’ve just got to keep stepping the right way and not step back.”

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Renardo Sidney, Teammate of the Year?

The old adage is that there’s no “I” in team, but many people fail to remember that there’s actually a healthy dose of “me” within that word — half of it, in fact.  The current collegian who most embraces the modern and more cynical interpretation of that aphorism is none other than Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney.  The 6’10”, insert-weight-here, conundrum of a talent is entering his third year in Rick Stansbury’s Bulldog program, and his fifth as the sport’s poster child for more headaches and hype than peace of mind and production.  But give the portly kid from Jackson, Mississippi, credit — he keeps finding new and inventive ways to alienate himself.  The latest and greatest act in his own personal passion play is his decision to skip out on his team’s August trip to Europe in favor of returning to John Lucas’ training facility in Houston to try to get his weight under control before the start of next season.  According to Brandon Marcello at the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, Sidney recently said:

Another Strike Against Sidney?

Everybody has their own opinion but I’m doing what I have to do.  There’s nothing else going on. They can say what they want to say but, like I said, I know what I have to do basketball-wise. I wasn’t ready to go (to Europe) and I felt like I really wasn’t in shape. I wanted to come back down here and get some more work.

At one point during the late spring, Sidney had reportedly ballooned up to 320 pounds, well above his listed playing weight of 270.  He lost 23 pounds during his first cycle through Lucas’ camp at the early part of the summer, but his stated goal is to lose the remainder before school begins at Mississippi State on August 17.  Why Sidney doesn’t feel that traveling and training with his own team and setting an example as an upperclassman coming off an underachieving year is beyond us, but the enigmatic center has often made decisions that inspire head-scratching among most observers inside the sport. 

The big question on everyone’s mind is whether this decision is simply cover for something else, and if such a strange allowance on the part of the coaches and Sidney himself (who willingly gives up a free summer trip to Europe with your team?) represents the beginning of the end for him at Mississippi State.  Marcello’s follow-up column today addressed this very concern and it’s worth repeating — with as much trouble as Sidney has caused during his two-plus years at MSU and barely anything to show for it (unless you count a 10-9 record chock full of half-winded performances as something), it might simply be the right time for the two to permanently part ways.  Even if Sidney loses the requisite weight in Houston over the next month, he’ll have missed out on another chance to bond with his teammates and will no doubt find additional trouble somewhere else before the start of next season.  For a Bulldog program that has been consistently good for the better part of a decade, the best outcome for Rick Stansbury and the MSU faithful may be to simply hope that Sidney never returns.  We hate to completely write off a kid like that, but at what point do you finally say “enough is enough?”  Another month, and Bulldog fans may know the answer to that question.

Renardo Sidney Suspended Indefinitely

Late yesterday, news broke that Renardo Sidney, the troubled Mississippi State forward, was involved in a fight in the stands with a teammate at the Diamond Head Classic. Coming soon after he had served a one-game suspension for an outburst during practice, we wondered how Rick Stansbury and the Mississippi State administration would respond. We may have our first indication as Mississippi State announced just a few hours ago that it had suspended Sidney and Elgin Bailey indefinitely. In a little over a year in Starkville, Sidney has only played in two official games due to suspensions — first by the NCAA for one year and nine games and then by the school for the aforementioned “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Sidney has not lived up to his potential yet

In between the three suspensions (counting the upcoming one), Sidney has shown flashes of brilliance in his two games as he scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 24 minutes against Virginia Tech, and scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes against San Diego. Still, there continues to be an aura of trouble around Sidney and many are questioning his commitment to the game as Mike DeCourcy astutely noted that, despite having nearly 20 months to get ready for his first game, Sidney still was not in shape. Now the question is whether Mississippi State, which waited nearly a year and a half to get Sidney into a Bulldog uniform, is willing to take Sidney back. His talent is unquestioned and many have stated that he may be the most talented player in college basketball, but you have to wonder how much more Stansbury and the rest of the team are willing to put up with before they cut the cord like Memphis did with Jelan Kendrick earlier this season. Now there are also reports that many of his teammates want him off the team as his talent is no longer worth the trouble. If he is kicked off the team, we suspect that he would seriously consider entering the NBA Draft as he would have a difficult time finding another high-level college program that would be willing to take a chance on him.

Renardo Sidney Involved In Fight With Teammate

We saw this bit of news on Twitter a little while ago, and now an AP story on confirms it: Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney fought with a teammate in the stands on Thursday night just moments before the tipoff of the Hawaii vs Utah game at the Diamond Head Classic. According to the linked article (and the video below, of course), punches were thrown and Sidney was escorted out by police. No arrests were made.

[h/t: @dlhil00]

Sidney’s opponent in this particular scrap was junior forward Elgin Bailey. Earlier in the day, Sidney had scored 19 points and pulled six rebounds in just 20 minutes of action in the Bulldogs’ 69-52 win over San Diego, playing in just his second game for MSU. Bailey had two points and eight boards in 21 minutes of play.

Susan Shan, a sportswriter covering the tournament and proprietor of, posted an eyewitness account from a person associated with the team who saw the buildup to the fight as well as the aftermath. In the account she received from this witness, while the reasons for the squabble were rather trifling, Bailey appears to be more in the wrong, and may have even tried to attack an officer.

Sidney was suspended by head coach Rick Stansbury for Mississippi State’s game against Washington State on Wednesday because of an “outburst” of Sidney’s during the team’s practice on Tuesday. While there have been no official details emerge as to the reason for the fight in the stands on Thursday — we admit, no matter why it started, we can’t think of many things that would justify a brawl in the stands with a teammate — it doesn’t really matter who’s found to be at fault in the end. It cannot be ignored that, since joining the squad, Sidney now has as many behavioral gaffes as games under his belt. Sidney is bound to again face punishment from Stansbury, if not an outright removal from the team. Forget why the fight happened — the point is that it happened at all, and that Sidney, just off a disciplinary action, is seen throwing punches in the stands at a person — a teammate who is on the ground, mind you — in full view of spectators and TV cameras.

This thing brings to mind those awful images from the infamous Pacers-Pistons atrocity exhibition  (the Malice in the Palace) from 2004, one of the lowest moments in American professional sports. True, the court/crowd barrier was never broken in this case — or was it? Whether they’re on the playing surface or sitting in the stands, athletes are representatives their schools, and we wonder how many invites to the Diamond Head Classic that Mississippi State will be receiving in the upcoming years.

Obviously we should all reserve final judgment until the full details are known, or at least until Stansbury comments on this issue. We’ll update the story as details emerge.

Renardo Sidney Suspended For One Game

After sitting out for a season and nine games, Renardo Sidney made his debut for Mississippi State this past Saturday. The 6’11, 270-pound forward played 25 minutes, scored 12 points, snagged three boards, and fouled out against Virginia Tech. The Hokies smoked Sidney’s Bulldogs, 88-57.

Now, for Sidney, it’s back to the pine. He’s not sitting because of his performance during his only game, though. The problem was his behavior during practice on Monday.

Sitting Out Is Nothing New For Sidney

Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury suspended Sidney one game for an outburst during the Bulldogs’ workout ahead of their game against Washington State on Wednesday in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Stansbury originally announced the suspension as an indefinite one, but a school official later confirmed that Sidney would only be out for a single game.

Verdict: Renardo Sidney Can Play at MSU… Next Year

The NCAA released its verdict on the Renardo Sidney situation at Mississippi State this afternoon, and as expected, Sidney will not be playing at all during the 2009-10 season.  The question will be whether he will play in a college uniform next year, as the NCAA’s penalties against the 6’10 post player leave open that possibility.  From the NCAA press memo:

Mississippi State University basketball student-athlete Renardo Sidney must sit out the remainder of the current season and 30 percent of the 2010-11 season, according to a decision announced Friday by the NCAA academic and membership affairs staff.  In addition, Sidney must repay $11,800 in benefits received from preferential treatment. The sanction for 2010-11 is estimated to be nine games.

Considering the allegations against the Sidney family — that they were essentially living rent-free for a couple of years in high-end properties in Los Angeles — this seems like a relative slap on the wrist.  What it really means, though, is that the NCAA couldn’t prove any (or much) 0f it.  What they could prove, however, was that Sidney and his father lied about a recruiting trip that they took to LA in 2006 to visit schools.  Their answers of “I don’t know” didn’t pass muster with the factfinders, and therefore the “unethical conduct” charge that the NCAA threw at him stuck.  The penalty for that transgression has mostly been repaid: Sidney must sit out a full season at Mississippi State.  MSU’s final home game is tomorrow, and the Bulldogs will have at most a  handful of games ahead in the postseason.  Put simply, this year is already shot for Sidney, so the timing of the penalty coming now doesn’t really feel like that much of a loss.

Will We Ever Actually See Sidney in This Uniform?

The second piece of the punishment handed down — a nine game suspendion next season and $11,800 in repaid benefits (based on extra Reebok gear, unsanctioned workouts and a family credit line) — seems light as well.  The nine games, sure.  But only $12k in bennies?  Either the NCAA needs to hire better private investigators or the Sidney family (and their attorney Donald Jackson) are experts in deception and obfuscation.   One would think that a family on the take for a shoe company as powerful as Reebok and a player broker as influential as Sonny Vaccaro would hit that amount in a good weekend.  After all, the risk/reward on a player like Sidney is calculated in multiples of seven figures, not five. 

Speaking of which, the spectre now hanging over the Bulldog program is what will Sidney decide to do now?  Their attorney says that they already plan on appealing, but that’s unlikely to get them anywhere better than they are now.  This summer Sidney will be draft-eligible as a player one year removed from high school, but the year away from the game has not helped his NBA draft stock.  At one time considered the top player in the Class of 2009 (ahead of John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins), he is now listed in the mid- to late-second round on two top NBA Draft sites.  Some of that drop is attributable to his play during his senior year where many scouts felt he was unfocused and coasting, but undoubtedly many are now wondering how the one-year layoff from competitive basketball has affected a player already prone to loafing. 

The NBA will certainly find space on a roster for a 6’10, 270-lb beast with a soft touch around the rim, even if on a flier.  But staying at Mississippi State another year is another interesting option.  Current MSU patrolman and college basketball’s all-time leading shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado, will finish his career this spring along with starting guard Barry Stewart, but the Bulldogs should return the core of a relatively young bubble team this season.  Should Sidney choose to return, he could slide right into Varnado’s warm post spot with the hope that the roster continues to develop (including 7’1 project John Riek). 


Buzz: Renardo Sidney Case Near Its End?

Clear as Mud.  According to an Andy Katz report from earlier today, the answer to the above question is… maybe?  It depends on who you’re listening to.  Don Jackson, the Sidney family attorney, email blasted the media today with a laundry list of findings of fact that he believes means that Renardo Sidney may be “days away” from becoming eligible to play for Mississippi State this season.  The NCAA, however, doesn’t exactly agree with Mr. Jackson’s assessment of the situation:

Mr. Jackson is wrong in his description of Renardo Sidney, Jr’s., initial-eligibility status, and he continues to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Amateurism Certification Process. The NCAA Division I Amateurism Fact-Finding Committee has only determined what facts will now be analyzed to decide if violations of NCAA legislation have occurred, and if so, what penalties should be assessed. This matter will not be concluded until such final determinations have been made. At this point, it is premature to speculate on a timeframe and an ultimate outcome.

So what’s going to happen?  Your guess is as good as ours, although the hard-line stance that the NCAA appears to be taking with respect to Sidney implies again that it’s unlikely we’ll ever see him play college basketball.  We’ve been wrong before, though, and we’d certainly welcome him if he miraculously gets to play this year.

MSU Dragging Their Feet on Renardo Sidney?

Thanks are due to Mike DeCourcy for staying on top of this story.  He writes today that Don Jackson, the attorney for Renardo Sidney who is handling his case with the NCAA over eligibility, is unhappy with Mississippi State for, as he put it, “abdicating it’s obligation to protect the interests of their student-athletes.”  Citing instances of MSU officials failing to assist his office in moving things along, he places the blame for Sidney’s continued status in limbo squarely on the athletic department’s foot-dragging in this matter. 

Renardo Sidney: Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate

Clearly Jackson is attempting to assign blame on anyone but himself for failing to make his client eligible to play this season, but what would you do if you were Greg Byrne, the Mississippi State athletic director?  When he approved the recruitment of Sidney by Rick Stansbury last summer, it was undoubtedly a strategic play that he believed could result in a Final Four appearance for a talented Bulldog team.  The thinking probably went along the same lines as most cost/benefit analyses do — make the risk assessment and then let the findings inform a decision tree with respect to how to pursue Sidney’s eligibility.  If there was no chance of Sidney ever becoming eligible, MSU wouldn’t have given him a scholarship in the first place (see: UCLA and USC).  But they had to believe that there was a fighting chance that they could get him on the court this year with the NCAA’s blessing, or they wouldn’t have offered him the scholarship. 

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Renardo Sidney Academically Cleared; Hurdle Still Remains

One step towards Renardo Sidney joining Mississippi State in their quest for an SEC title was completed today with the McDonald’s All-American receiving academic clearance to enroll at the university and begin classes on the first day, Sidney’s attorney told’s Andy Katz earlier today.

One giant hurdle still remains until Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury can pencil in Sidney for their November 13 opener. The NCAA is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the Sidney family paying for two million dollar homes in the Los Angeles area during Sidney’s transfer to a high school there. The investigation caused both UCLA and USC to back off in their recruitment of Sidney for fear of eligibilty issues. Until the NCAA feels it has compiled strong enough reason to believe Sidney’s family paid for the homes legally, Sidney will not be cleared to play basketball.

Renardo Sidney/ESPN
Renardo Sidney/ESPN

Reports say Sidney and his family are currently on the move to Starkville, MS. If Stansbury does get Sidney eligible at some point this season, he’ll join guards Ravern Johnson, Barry Stewart and shot-blocking sensation Jarvis Varnado in the middle for a Bulldog team that will contend for the Top 25.

My best guess during this entire process remains that Sidney will eventually suit up for Mississippi State at some point during the 2009-10 campaign. The NCAA elongates these investigations tremendously, so pinning for Sidney to play for Stansbury and the Bulldogs during their season opener could be wishful thinking. To avoid an endless lawsuit from Jackson and the Sidney family, however, expect the NCAA to slap Sidney on the wrist with around a 9-10 game suspension and move on while he plays in the bulk of Mississippi State’s schedule.