Sidney readies himself … in case

STARKVILLE – Renardo Sidney might never suit up for Mississippi State’s basketball team, but he hasn’t let that uncertainty derail his offseason workouts.
Sidney, the 6-foot-10 freshman who’s the subject of an NCAA amateurism evaluation, will continue working with his new teammates when the Bulldogs open formal preseason workouts here on Friday.
The five-star signee’s status for the season isn’t promising, with his attorney, Donald Jackson, and the NCAA at loggerheads over Jackson’s refusal to turn over certain family financial records.
“Any of us put ourselves in his situation, human nature, it would probably not be as easy as it would be if you’re knowing where everything is,” coach Rick Stansbury said Wednesday in a meeting with reporters. “But to his credit, I think he’s handled everything very well. He hasn’t let what’s around him or the unknowns affect his effort and his attitude and his work ethic.
“I think he’s probably handled that better than we anticipated him handling it, considering everything that’s going on around him.”
Sidney’s not the only freshman who could make a big impact this season for MSU, which returns all five starters from its SEC Tournament champion squad of 2008-09. Guard Shaun Smith, forward-center Wendell Lewis and center John Riek could be counted on to varying degrees.
“We need all of them to step up,” Stansbury said. “It depends on injuries and all those kinds of things, which ones we need to step up more than others. I think all four of them in time are going to be very good players.”
The 6-8, 240-pound Lewis, from Selma, Ala., is the least-heralded of the recruits. But Stansbury really likes him, and he could wind up being center Jarvis Varnado’s backup.
“He’s one of those guys that our program’s kind of made a living on,” Stansbury said. “You’ll look up in about a year-and-a-half from now and wonder where he came from. I like that about him.”

Injuries update
- One reason Lewis could play early is because 6-8 junior Elgin Bailey is still trying to recover from the severely dislocated ankle he suffered late last season. Bailey was cleared a couple of months ago to return to full-time conditioning and playing pickup games, but Stansbury said he won’t be practicing right away, and he’s not sure about his availability for this season.
Reserve guard Riley Benock will be out about another two weeks after foot surgery. Smith, from Noxubee County, seems to be over hip and wrist injuries that limited him for part of the summer.
The 7-1 Riek, who had surgery on his ACL in the summer of 2008, is holding up well.
“When we start the pounding of two-a-days for the next two weeks, we’ll see how he holds up,” Stansbury said of Riek’s knee.
Riek must sit out MSU’s first nine games because of money received during pre-NBA Draft workouts prior to his injury.

Ahead of the game
- Stansbury, who’s entering his 12th season as MSU’s head coach, said the Bulldogs will hold their first practice Friday afternoon, then get into the two-a-days routine on Saturday.
State’s first exhibition game is Oct. 31 against Oklahoma City, and the regular season begins Nov. 13 versus Rider at Humphrey Coliseum.
“It feels a lot different this time this year than it did this time last year,” Stansbury said. “This time last year, we had two players returning, Jarvis and Barry (Stewart), and everybody else was an unknown element, factors you just didn’t know.
“We should be at this time this year, versus this time last year, ahead of the game some.”

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

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal