By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State center Renardo Sidney will not be on the trip with his teammates when the Bulldogs travel for a 10-day, five-game tour of Europe.
State officials announced the development Friday morning saying the junior center has returned to Houston, Texas to work out with former NBA player and coach John Lucas.
Sidney, who averaged 14.2 points per game with 7.6 rebounds last season for MSU, spent a majority of this past May and June working out at Lucas’ camp where he told local reporters on July 11 he lost “23 pounds” working on his conditioning.
“Renardo Sidney has returned to Houston, Texas, to continue working out with John Lucas,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury stated in a university release. “He will not accompany the team to Europe next month, but he is expected back on campus for the start of the fall semester in mid-August.”
Lucas is respected among the basketball circles for his ability to work with players who are attempting to turn around their lives. After having his own problems with drugs, Lucas runs a substance abuse recovery program in Houston that has helped numerous athletes. An MSU team spokesman said Sidney is expected to return to the Starkville campus on Aug. 14 with fall classes to begin three days later.
Mississippi State began practice Thursday afternoon for its European exhibition tour with the trip beginning with a departure to Amsterdam on Aug. 5. The Bulldogs team will play five games in the Netherlands, Belgium and France before returning to the United States on Aug. 15.
The benefit for Sidney in this situation is he can train without the practice limitations of the NCAA rulebook. If the junior was with the MSU team in Europe, he would have been under the strict practice time and conditioning guidelines of current NCAA regulations.
“I ran 18 miles a week,” Sidney said of his previous time with Lucas. “We did two-a-days, basketball-wise. I’ve never worked that hard. I think the last time I worked that hard was in seventh grade.”
Sidney is currently taking two online courses during the second summer session at Mississippi State and will be able to finish those classes while training in Houston. An MSU team spokesman confirmed that if Sidney were taking regular courses, this move back to Houston would not be possible.
MSU officials said that the idea to train away from the team while its in Europe was Sidney’s and the junior center went to MSU’s 14-year head coach for permission to do so.
The last time Sidney left the mainland United States ended with a highly-publicized fight between him and former MSU center Elgin Bailey in the stands between games of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii around Christmas 2011.
“I think I have a lot of people to show that I can do a lot of stuff this year,” Sidney said. “I got a lot of stuff to prove about my attitude, my game and my conditioning.”