By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State men’s basketball coach Rick Stansbury wanted to set the record straight Monday about his forward Renardo Sidney.
The 13-year veteran of roaming the Humphrey Coliseum sidelines simply doesn’t care what others outside the basketball office in Starkville think about how he’s handled his star player.
“Number one and you won't believe this, I don't worry zero about what anything thinks about how I've handled the suspensions or anything like that,” Stansbury said. “Zero do I worry about that. I'm going to make decisions based on his situation.”
After the controversy that ensued following State’s 71-58 victory over Ole Miss about Sidney’s lack of media availability to local reporters, Stansbury made it clear the program still needs to prepare the sophomore for the questions eventually coming his way.
“I think it's probably like anybody who has never done it,” Stansbury said. “(The media) can be very difficult in the way you ask questions for a young man that never had those questions asked to him. He needs to understand some things and be honest but there's certain things and certain lines you don't step over and those are things he's got to learn how to do.”
Sidney had a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes of action Saturday as he also showcased more of a willingness to run the floor and play defense than he had all season long.
Sidney has been off limits to the media since the Christmas Eve fight with then-teammate Elgin Bailey but was allowed to conduct a post-game interview with the SEC Network Saturday following the win against Ole Miss.
“He's a 21-year-old kid where this is all new for him and his background didn't prepare him for this,” Stansbury said. “Our job is a lot of things and not just not on the court but it's a process for a lot of things away from it as well.”
At the same time, Stansbury did make his point Monday his position that the media has developed too much focus and attention on the 6-foot-10 prospect and not enough on the four other guys on the Humphrey Coliseum floor with him.
“He's a averaging 13.5 (points) and nine (rebounds but) where would he be if he came in November,” Stansbury said. “Trust me, he deserves a lot of things but it's been a process in a lot of different areas. I will defend him to a point because I know his background and where he's come from and where we are now.”
The background Stansbury is referring to is Sidney’s cloudy situation with being moved as a young high school prospect from Jackson, Miss., to Los Angeles and the NCAA investigation over improper benefits coming from the AAU programs he played for that was coached by his father, Renardo Sr.
“I tell him you got something to offer this world besides basketball - got a beautiful smile,” Stansbury said. “When you get to know him, he's really a funny kid. He's a real personable kid. My biggest challenge first is how to be a good teammate and nobody has showed him how or what is acceptable.”
From an on-the-court perspective, Sidney is one of seven players in the 2009 recruiting class that consisted of 20 five-star prospects to be averaging double figures in scoring in his first year of college basketball. The other six were NBA draft picks last year (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Avery Bradley and Lance Stephenson).
As a position comparison, Stansbury used Alabama junior forward JaMychal Green as an example of a player that has significantly progressed throughout his three years in college basketball (increased point average by six points per game) while being a projected lottery pick out of St. Jude High School in Montgomery, Ala.
“As bad as he is, came in January and he's still averaging 13 and 8 guys,” Stansbury said. “Not bad now – not bad at all.”