Sidney In A Sweat To Start State Career

Hey, he doesn't tote that towel around just for decoration. Renardo Sidney needs it, as was proven every few seconds during a quick interview session. "Man, I'm just nervous!" he said, before wiping his forehead yet again. It's fitting, though, because Sidney is certainly in a sweat about finally tipping off his Mississippi State career Wednesday evening.

"I'm very excited, and nervous," Sidney said prior to Mississippi State's home game with Alabama A&M. "I haven't played in a year-and-a-half and a lot of people have a lot of expectations out of me. But I'm excited to get back on the court."

Not the MSU home court exactly. Sidney will make his long-delayed debut on a home court anyway though. It will be at 7:00 when the Bulldogs take on Belhaven College in an exhibition game at the Mississippi Coliseum. In, obviously, Sidney's original home town of Jackson. That makes his first Bulldog appearance both more exciting and, he said, a little emotionally easier.

"I'll just be more comfortable getting back on court with all my people supporting me." And ‘all' means all because as of today Mrs. Patricia Sidney showed Renardo a list of at least 25 family and friends coming. They will be joined by a few thousand other eager witnesses for the first playing time for Mississippi State's most-celebrated basketball recruit in decades…not to mention the topic of the most-controversial roundball events for the Bulldog program likely ever.

Sidney has served his NCAA-ordered suspension of one full season and 30% of this one for benefits he and family received while residing in Los Angeles during his high school career. The family also had to pay back a fine based on provable profits from their stay in L.A. Those events caused local powers Southern Cal and UCLA to drop recruiting the McDonalds All-American center-forward-and even-guard; which let Coach Rick Stansbury bring him back to the home state to play college ball.

It's been a long wait, and at the cost of a freshman year…but the potential benefits to Bulldog basketball could be as big as Sidney's reputation now. As for all those expectations others have, they can't be more than what Renardo expects of himself.

"Do what I did in high school," he said. "I know this is another level but I think I'm ready for it and I've been waiting a long time to get back on court." Not that he will have to wait very long to get on the Coliseum court tomorrow.

"Coach Stansbury told me I was starting and would play me until my lungs collapse or something," Sidney said. "So I guess that means the whole game!"

A bold prediction, given how out of shape Sidney was upon reporting to campus in summer 2009 or for that matter how he looked this past off-season. Yet appearances have changed rather dramatically this fall and Sidney reports a current weight of 275 pounds, after two months of a morning exercise regimen with his coach, then an afternoon team conditioning workout, and all the practicing in between. He may still break a sweat at the lightest exertion but that's actually encouraging news now.

"I'm excited. I've still got to keep dropping but I'm excited." Such excitement has led to some butterflies in the (trimmed) tummy lately as Sidney prepares to play. He's not the only one excited; some fans are so eager to see him in action that they've sent messages via texts. One even suggested that he and also-under-suspension guard Dee Bost go by ‘DeeNardo'. "I like it!" Then again that cel phone has presented a few image issues as Sidney has been bringing it to the bench in games this year.

Sidney admitted that last night, when he was observed checking the phone during play, someone was sending him suggestions to pass along to Stansbury. He didn't, of course.

Tomorrow, now, Sidney has to pay attention to the coach. He said that his orders are to stay on the block, where the Bulldogs obviously need help most. "I mean, I'm too dominant, I don't think anybody in American can guard me on the block. And Coach (Marcus) Grant has done a great job of teaching me low-post moves and keeping me on the block." OK, he added, he will occasionally go out and shoot the three. "But I think I'm too good on the block. If I get it down there I'm going to score."

This would be exactly what MSU needs now, especially as the schedule gets very much tougher than what State has been playing so far without both Sidney and Bost. The latter, by the way, can play in the exhibition but must wait for January and SEC season to play for real. So Sidney needs to be a big boost immediately as the Bulldogs go on the road to events in the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Las Vegas.

"I get thrown in the fire, I don't play the Alabama States and Florida Atlantics. I got to play the top dogs, so I have to bring my A-game, the team has to bring its A-game, and I think we'll be very successful."

For that matter just getting on the court will be a long-sought success for Sidney and State alike. "Like I said, there's a lot of people expecting a lot out of me. And it's going to be real fun."

No sweat, even.

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