In his first comments since signing a national letter of intent, Renardo Sidney made it clear his vision for a college career at Mississippi State isn’t a long-term proposition.
Sidney spoke Thursday for the first time since receiving a two-part penalty from the NCAA that included losing eligibility of the 2009-10 season due to unethical conduct and being forced to sit out an additional 30 percent (an estimated nine games) of this upcoming season due to impermissible benefits received prior to signing and arriving on the Mississippi State campus.
“After I thought about it – it was life,” Sidney said Thursday. “Everybody goes through ups and downs. Not playing a whole year and knowing we were supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament. Being in the NIT was very hard.”
Sidney has also been forced to repay the $11,800 in benefits he received to a charity both sides determine is appropriate.
“Our members have made it crystal clear that student-athletes who receive impermissible benefits, either directly or indirectly, and who lie to the NCAA must be held accountable,” NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said in March when the ruling was made.
When asked during Thursday’s media session about rumors he would ditch the Starkville campus for a professional year overseas, the 6-foot-10 forward gave hints with his answer that the 2010-11 season could be not only his first but also his last in a Mississippi State uniform.
“No,” Sidney said while quickly shaking his head. “We have the best conditioning coach in the nation here at Mississippi State so if I came back one more year to do his thing and get me right, it would be good. Like I said, I made a decision to come back but I don’t know if I’ll make a decision to come back next year but it depends on how our season will go.”
In its official release, the NCAA has determined Sidney and his family benefited by using funds from a non-profit organization, which is Sidney’s summer league team, for violations of NCAA ethical conduct and preferential treatment rules. They are also determining that Sidney himself provided false and misleading information throughout the entire investigation that started when he signed with MSU on April 30.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Sidney’s mother Patricia said in March. “I don’t agree with everything, but at least we can move on.”
Sidney’s attorney Don Jackson made it clear it was the Sidney family’s position in March that the NCAA punished a student-athlete over a small amount of value that was unaccounted for.
“He has been punished because hamburgers and fries were purchased on weekend trips in cash,” Jackson said. "Bottom line, this decision is a transparent attempt to justify a year-long investigation that started out focusing on million dollar homes.”
Sidney, who refused to comment on the NCAA ruling, has heard all the labels he’s been handed since arriving in Starkville like liar, lazy and over-hyped. None of those have deterred the forward from eventually starting his college basketball career when Mississippi State travels to the Bahamas for a game against Virginia Tech.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m going to be very nervous,” Sidney said. “I haven’t played in a year and a half. It’s going to be new to me but hopefully I get out there and do what I got to do.”
One of the major question marks for Sidney entering the 2010-11 season is the issue with his weight and conditioning issues as the former McDonald’s All-American hasn’t played competitive basketball in over 18 months.
“The challenge with Sid will be no secret – his conditioning,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. “The speed of this game will be different for him and you can’t expect from day one he steps on the floor to be where he’ll be com March or April. Sometimes talent level can offset lack of experience.”
Sidney, who said he weighed in this week at 279 pounds, wasn’t able to travel with the team last year as NCAA rules say a ineligible student-athlete can not accompany the team on road trips. Stansbury described situations where Sidney would gain 10 pounds over a weekend that MSU officials were unable to monitor their forward’s diet.
“It took a very emotional toll on me,” Sidney said. “It was hard sitting on the bench knowing I was supposed to be out there playing with my team and helping them win. I’m just glad to get this opportunity to play one more year with coach Stansbury and with Dee Bost. It should be a very exciting year.”
Despite being a towel-waver on the sidelines for the entire 2009-10 season, Sidney’s teammates have become believers in his talent after watching him perform in a practice situation.
“We anticipate him coming out there and playing a major role,” junior guard Dee Bost said. “He’s going to be the first option in the offense just because he’s so big and nobody can stop him. If he stays in shape and do what he’s supposed to do, he could easily be Top 5 in the draft.”
Clearly not worried about the chemistry of essentially playing three different types of seasons as MSU will have to battle quality opponents without Sidney, Bost or both.
“Remember this, it’s always an easy problem to have to plug in players that can play,” Stansbury said “That’s always an easy problem.”
The difference between the unknown that was last year compared to the preparations for this season is State’s coaching staff understand the hand they’ve been dealt from a rotation standpoint.
“The positive thing is we’re going into this season understanding some things right now,” Stansbury said. “We don’t have (Sidney) nine games but we know when he’s coming back. We don’t have Dee 15 games but we know when we got him.”
Mississippi State begins practice this week and opens the 2010-11 season with a game at Humphrey Coliseum against Tennessee State. If Bost can get academically eligible by Dec. 10, the duo should be on the floor together for the Southeastern Conference opener in Starkville against Alabama.
“Without these two guys (pointing to Bost and Sidney) these cornerstones, other guys are going to have to step up,” Stansbury said. “They’re not going to cancel any games. Those games are going to keep coming. Everybody wants a piece of us till we get these guys eligible.”