MSU big man talks for first time about NCAA

STARKVILLE – Renardo Sidney feels he was wronged, but he is eager to get on with his basketball career.
For the first time since the NCAA began its amateurism evaluation of Sidney in the spring of 2009, the 6-foot-10 Mississippi State sophomore spoke publicly on Tuesday about what his time in Starkville has been like.
Sidney, who’s not yet been made available to the media by coach Rick Stansbury, was interviewed by MSU’s media relations department, and the interview was posted at mstateathletics.com.
After nearly a year of investigating Sidney for alleged financial improprieties during his recruitment, the NCAA handed down a ruling in March. It said that Sidney, a Jackson native who played most of his high school career in the Los Angeles area, received impermissible benefits prior to college enrollment and that he lied to the NCAA about a trip he had taken a few years earlier.
He was ordered to repay the dollar value of benefits received, lost a year of eligibility, and must sit out 30 percent of MSU’s 2010-11 schedule (nine games).
“I was hurt, because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Sidney told the website. “It just killed me, because I really wanted to be on the floor helping my team win. Someone else was deciding my fate and it didn’t feel fair. …
“It was like a dream, but a bad one.”
Sidney did not address the specific violations.
Stansbury was on vacation and not available for comment on Tuesday.
Sidney said it was tough adjusting to college life in a new place. That much was apparent during the season, when he struggled with his weight once the Bulldogs started going on road trips (he was not allowed to accompany the team), and he said time management was a challenge, too.
He said coaches and teammates kept his spirits up best they could.
“The days I was down, they all came and tried to cheer me up,” Sidney said. “They did a good job of comforting me, especially when I learned the NCAA wasn’t going to allow me to play.”
He specifically credited Elgin Bailey, who had to sit out last season with an ankle injury.
“Seeing the stuff he does and what pain he’s endured makes me want to work just as hard,” Sidney said. “After watching him go through all he has, I’m not about to complain about anything I’ve experienced.”

Looking ahead
Sidney struck some positive chords during the interview. He bragged about being the best fisherman on the team, touts himself as a leader, and promised MSU fans great things for this coming season.
“They can expect a leader, a player that will be exciting on the court and very energetic. They’re going to see one of the best that’s ever come through Mississippi State.”
One issue Sidney did not address was how long he’ll be in Starkville. Judging by a Twitter post he made on the night of the NBA Draft in June, he’ll be entering the 2011 draft.
Oct. 15 marks the beginning of official preseason practices for State. That seems to be all Sidney is focused on right now. He said he’s slimmed down and has improved his speed and jumping ability. He suffered a lateral sprain in his left foot at an adidas camp in Chicago on Friday but won’t be sidelined more than a couple of weeks.
When asked about donning the maroon and white, he said, “I think I’ll be very nervous, but I’ll be excited to finally see Mississippi State on my chest. I’ll be ready for the battles, though, and doing what it takes to help us win.”

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal