STARKVILLE – One down, one to go.
With preseason drills less than two months off, Mississippi State’s basketball team has been eagerly waiting to see if the NCAA would clear two of its big 2009 signees, John Riek and Renardo Sidney.
Coach Rick Stansbury learned Wednesday that Riek, a 7-foot-1, 250-pound center, has been ruled eligible for this season.
It was assumed that Riek, who’s originally from Sudan, would be cleared.
His was a routine matter of repaying money he received to aid in his NBA tryouts last year. Riek tore his ACL before the draft and spent last season rehabbing at IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Riek will have to sit out nine games, which is 30 percent of MSU’s schedule and the maximum number of games the NCAA could have docked him. He’ll also have to repay – to a charity of his choice – the full amount of pre-enrollment extra benefits he received for the draft workouts.
A repayment plan, which can be set up over the course of his college eligibility, should be hammered out within the next week. It will require NCAA approval.
MSU compliance director Bracky Brett did not yet know the amount to be repaid.
“I’m glad we can put all of this behind us,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said in a statement. “Now we know exactly what his situation is, and we can move forward.”
Riek can participate in offseason workouts and preseason drills, which begin Oct. 16. He can also play in exhibition games.
Riek was once a five-star recruit who came from to the U.S. in 2006 from Ethiopia, where he was raised after his family left war-torn Sudan. He played at Our Savior New American in Long Island, N.Y., and the Winchendon (Mass.) School.
After his July, 2008, knee surgery, Riek committed to Cincinnati but instead remained at IMG.
At the very least, he’s expected to contribute off the bench this year. Riek, who’s got a wingspan of 7 feet, 8 inches, has impressed teammates with his summer work.
“John’s looking real good,” senior center Jarvis Varnado said Monday.
Stansbury said upon signing Riek in May that he knew he was “taking a chance” on him.
Stansbury also took a chance with the signing of Sidney, a 6-10 McDonald’s All-American who’s originally from Jackson but played most of his high school ball in Los Angeles.
Sidney is the subject of an NCAA amateurism evaluation sparked by published reports of possible improper financial benefits.
MSU would suffer no discipline if Sidney is declared not certified, but until a decision is made, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over the Bulldogs as they prepare for the upcoming season.
If Riek and Sidney are both in the fold this season, MSU is expected by many observers to make a deep NCAA tournament run. Both freshmen are on campus and enrolled in classes. Riek arrived in June, Sidney last week.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal