BRAD LOCKE: Sidney's return trip to Houston raises questions

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Renardo Sidney has spent much of his college career separated from his teammates, so you’d think that would be a situation he and his coaches would want to avoid. Alas, when the Bulldogs board a plane bound for Europe next week, Sidney will be in Houston, working with former NBA star John Lucas.
We all learned of this development last week. It was Sidney’s idea to return to Houston, as apparently he feels the need for more individual work (he was there in May and June). That’s commendable, because the top priority for Sidney this offseason is getting his body in better shape, and coach Rick Stansbury checked off on the return trip.
But it raises the question: If Sidney isn’t in shape yet, what the heck has he been doing since the Bulldogs’ season ended in mid-March? During his brief return to Starkville, Sidney said he had dropped 20-plus pounds in the process and needs to lose more.
I know these things can take time, and that joining the team for the Europe trip would limit Sidney’s practice time, but there is still plenty of time for him to get things together before the season begins. Preseason practices are still two-and-a-half months away.
His need for individual instruction must be weighed against the importance of being part of a chemistry-building exercise.
The Bulldogs will travel to Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris, playing five exhibition games in seven days. This is a new experience for most of these guys, and it’s something that should bond them.
It can help put last season further in the past and make the newcomers feel a bigger part of the team.
Sidney is missing out on that. During his freshman season, when the NCAA’s amateurism evaluation kept him benched, Sidney could not travel to the team. He could only sit on the bench at home games.
Then last season, he had to sit out the first nine games. Once he joined the team, it didn’t go so well. There was an incident in Hawaii that cost Sidney a game’s suspension, and then of course the infamous brawl with a teammate that got Sidney sent home early and cost him another two games.
He spent a few days in Jackson between Christmas and New Year’s Day working out and practicing as his team played on.
Risk factor
That history is what makes this return trip to Houston a bit risky. If Lucas is able to whip Sidney into shape and he’s ready to be a major factor from opening tip, great. But will it be good for the team?
I can’t speak for Stansbury, but I will say that MSU is putting itself into a position where it could move on without Sidney and be OK. Or at least reduce his role.
Arnett Moultrie, the 6-foot-11 UTEP transfer, is by all accounts a very good player, and there are no questions about his work ethic at the moment. On Wednesday, MSU signed Latvian standout Kristers Zeidaks, a 6-8 forward who might have to serve a few games’ suspension due to amateurism issues but will be on the court well before SEC play begins.
Junior Wendell Lewis is back, and I expect the glimpses of promise we saw last season to become more regular as he grows in confidence and aggressiveness.
So here’s a thought: Sidney coming off the bench. If he’s not in the shape he should be in, you can probably count on that happening.
Stansbury needs players on the floor who are fully invested in themselves and each other. Sidney appears to be putting in the work on himself, but the question of how much this team really means to him still lingers.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.