By The Associated Press
JACKSON — With a powerful 6-foot-10 frame, soft hands and ample athleticism, Renardo Sidney was regarded as one of the nation’s top recruits when Mississippi State signed him in 2009.
That hype may turn out to be true. But as the big man proved on Wednesday night, he’s still a work in progress.
Making his long-awaited debut after missing the first 45 games of his career due to an NCAA investigation and subsequent suspension, the sophomore scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in 101-76 exhibition game against Belhaven on Wednesday night at Mississippi Coliseum.
He’ll make his official debut on Saturday against Virginia Tech in the Bahamas, but this was his first game action.
At times, he looked dominant, with an array of smooth post moves. But there was also the questionable shot selection and obvious conditioning issues. He made 4 of 9 shots in 15 minutes, leaving in the second half twice because of leg cramps.
Ravern Johnson led the Bulldogs with 29 points.
Dee Bost, who is currently ineligible while serving a nine-game suspension after failing to withdraw from the NBA Draft before the NCAA’s deadline last summer, scored 26 points. He’s eligible to return on Jan. 8 — which will be MSU’s first Southeastern Conference game against Alabama.
Rob Wallace scored 31 points for the NAIA Blazers.
By his own admission, Sidney is still out of shape. He’s been doing P90X workout routines with coach Rick Stansbury over the past few weeks to try and shed some unwanted weight, but still tips the scales at about 275 pounds — 10 pounds above his target weight.
Mississippi State specifically scheduled the exhibition so Sidney could have a practice game before becoming eligible.
Sidney’s availability, coupled with Bost’s return next month, give the Bulldogs hope that they can compete for the SEC’s Western Division title and make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA ruled last March that Sidney had to repay $11,800 in improper benefits and sit out the remainder of the 2010 season and nine more games this season before he could play for the Bulldogs.
Sidney, regarded as an elite recruit in the 2009 class, grew up in Jackson, Miss., but played at a Los Angeles high school. The NCAA ruled he received preferential treatment and improper benefits because of his talent, and that he also violated ethics rules by providing false or misleading statements.
Sidney has been attending Mississippi State throughout the eligibility saga, but was only allowed to participate in practices until Wednesday.
Read more in Thursday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.