Renardo Sidney, one of the nation’s top big men, is going to play basketball for Mississippi State.
The question now is: For how long?
Sidney, who earlier this week parted ways with the University of Southern California, signed and delivered a national letter of intent to MSU coach Rick Stansbury on Thursday afternoon.
The 6-foot-10, 260-pounder is a native of Jackson but spent the last three years playing in Los Angeles. The last two seasons he’s played at Fairfax Senior High, where he earned McDonald’s All-American honors.
He averaged 23.4 points and 10.6 rebounds this past seasson.
“We’ve got a great chance to win a national championship,” Sidney told the Daily Journal.
But if that doesn’t happen in 2010, will he return for another try or go to the NBA?
“I’m just trying to get in and get in better conditioning and lose weight and see what I can bring to the team, and we’ll go from there.”
Help in the post
Sidney will give MSU two big presences in the post – if Jarvis Varnado returns for his senior season. The nation’s leading shot blocker has entered his name in the NBA Draft but has not signed with an agent, so he can withdraw by June 15 and return to State.
His father, Winston Varnado, said he’s not sure how, if at all, Sidney’s arrival would affect Jarvis’ decision.
Of Sidney, the elder Varnado said, “He’s very impressive.”
MSU played a four-guard lineup this past season and managed to win the SEC Tournament with it. But more bulk down low is a very welcome change.
“I just hate to see people try to come down the lane on us,” Sidney said.
Sidney is State’s third signee for 2009, along with Shaunessy Smith, a 6-6 wing from Noxubee Co., and Wendell Lewis, a 6-8 forward from Selma, Ala. This latest signing puts MSU over its scholarship limit for 2009-10, a fact not lost on Stansbury.
“My answer to that is it always finds a way to work out,” Stansbury said.
In a press release, Stansbury said, “We are excited to have ‘Shug’ coming back home where his roots are. It’s very obvious he brings a wealth of talent and versatility to our program.”
Sidney brings a versatile skill set to the Bulldogs. He’s got a smooth outside shot and can handle the ball.
Making his name
He only played three years of high school ball, making his name on the AAU circuit. He tried to play at Piney Woods, a private school just south of Jackson, as a freshman but was ruled ineligible because he didn’t meet transfer requirements.
Wayne Brent, the Piney Woods coach at the time, first saw Sidney as a 6-4 sixth grader.
“Talented, runs, jump hook, jump shot, puts the ball on the floor, can pass it,” said Brent, who led Callaway to the Class 4A state title this year. “He had that look about him, if this guy keeps working, he’s gonna be a pro one day,”
Sidney was once ranked No. 1 in the country in his class as a sophomore and junior, but he’s currently ranked fifth by Scout.com and seventh by ESPN. His stock dropped thanks to his sometimes lackadaisical play, run-ins with referees and weight issues.
Sidney said he expects MSU’s conditioning program to make him less doughy and more sculpted, and there are fewer culinary choices in Starkville than in L.A.
“As far as referees, I don’t know where people are getting these stories from,” he said. “I never had a problem with referees, I just talked to them.”
Harvey Kitani, his coach at Fairfax, said, “He possesses extraordinary skills for a young man his size. His best basketball is still ahead of him, though.”
Sidney committed to Southern Cal in February, but that relationship soured, and the two parties had a “mutual parting of ways” earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper said the split had to do with an ongoing NCAA investigation into alleged violations involving former Trojan athletes Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.
“If you’re one of the top players, they want to know if you’ve been messing with an agent and all that stuff,” Brent said. “They didn’t want to go through all that.”
Sidney said he’s happy the process is over.
“Just to get it over with,” he said, “is a big relief for the family.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal