Sidney Winning The Weighting Game

Shhhhh. It's supposed to be a secret. Never mind that even the most casual glance shows how far Renardo Sidney has already come in his drive for a 270-pound playing weight. "We can't tell y'all the real weight until the season starts, when it will surprise a lot of people," Sidney explains. "But, it's going good."

Good? No, Renardo Sidney looks…there's no other way to say it, he looks great. And not merely compared to the oversized physique observed on the court last winter. Today, right now, the Mississippi State junior cuts a fine figure by most any measure. Whether the better-defined arm and shoulder muscles, or how that practice tee-shirt tucks inward, Sidney has the look of a guy ready to play some real basketball.

And, he says, to rewrite his own Bulldog basketball resume.

"I think I have a lot of people to show that I can do a lot of stuff this year," Sidney said. "And I've got a lot of stuff to prove, about my attitude, my game, and my condition."

The game, only real season competition will show. The condition ditto, though based on pure appearance all signs there must be positive. And the attitude? If Monday's afternoon interview is any fair indication, Sidney has taken the tough off-court lessons of the last two years and changed a lot more than his body.

Sidney was talking publicly for the first time since returning from a long stretch spent in Houston. The big one on the Gulf, that is. He reported there in May to work under the off-season tutelage of John Lucas, who has made a second name for himself since pro ball by running a combined camp/clinic/academy for ballplayers wanting to upgrade their game. Their lives, even.

In Sidney's case getting the body right was key to improving everything else, and the summer results show. "I lost 23 pounds as of last week," he said. And if no current weight was provided, Sidney slipped by admitting he'd hit 320 at one point. Right, do the math. And asked about the ‘official' preseason roster figure of 270, welllll…

"I'm more than 270, I'll tell you that!" Yet even up-close he looks less than 300 already, and what pounds he packs are in infinitely better condition. "We're going to try to lose 20 more before the season starts," he promises. ‘We' being Sidney and cuddly strength coach Richard Akins. In fact Akins is the only real MSU coach who can be around Sidney and squad for the moment, at least until middle of next week when the Bulldogs begin ten days of practices for their August trip to Europe.

There was no trick to trimming the 6-7 big man out in Houston. "Just eating right," shrugged Sidney. "We were just targeting on getting weight down and getting in better condition. He did a good job on the weight, I'm still working on my conditioning." Just don't get the idea he didn't already. Oh, just the opposite.

"We did three miles a day and I ran 18 miles a week. We did two-a-day basketball wise. I've never worked that hard. I think the last time was in seventh grade." But notice something: Sidney spent much more energy, time even, on things that did not involved the ball or rim. Because, he explains, if he gets the body honed to peak condition then "The basketball game is there."

"We did some basketball skills," he added, and in Sidney's case it was focused on post play. He isn't giving up on the outside shot or perimeter passes, understand, but a year of playing college ball has helped clarify some things.

"When I was in Houston I was going with a lot of good post guys. That's where I'm going to make my money at and I'm going to try to get in better condition and lose weight or that's not going to happen." Nor, Sidney is honest enough to add, if he can't get a handle on the attitude and emotions. Here a respected instructor like Lucas could offer a perspective.

"Every day he talked to me about life it wasn't all about basketball. He as just teaching me how to keep my cool and not worry about what people say. And just stay in the gym, and stay hungry." About the game, that is, not the diet.

And speaking of doing without…remember how last season, or more accurately two-thirds of a season, Sidney would get cross-wise with coach and club with his comments on air or on networking? Guess what else is going on a diet, so to (not) speak?

"I'm trying to stay low," Sidney says. "Last year was the worst year for me, ever. I'm trying to get my image back out there, and not worry about twitter or facebook. And just stay in the gym."

Which in the spanking-new Mize Pavilion means more than just the court. This is an all-needs facility at Sidney's disposal and he surely is taking off-season advantage.

"I'm in the gym every day. I try to go three times a day, get up in the morning with Coach Akins, doing weights in the evening, and playing at 3:30, 4:00. So it's not going to take that long, I just have to stay focused." Aiding that objective is a supportive squad that knows what Mississippi State is capable of with Sidney at full-strength and –speed.

"I love this team, this year. I think we're more focused and we're all coming together. And I think we're going to have a tremendous freshman class." That's right, Sidney is just now getting to know his newest teammates as all the rookies have reported. One has caught the elder Dog's immediate attention.

"Rodney (Hood) is going to be a great freshman coming in that can help us out a lot. I came back and the first day we played I was like wow, he can't be a freshman, he's doing stuff I couldn't do when I was a freshman. His motor just runs all day, he's a lefthanded shooter and plays defense and is very smart with the ball." And while Arnett Moultrie is not a rookie, the junior transfer is a new active part of the roster after sitting a season.

Moultrie's power-forward game is further reason Sidney can emphasize post play, and he expects this to be a potent frontcourt pairing. "It's going to be an amazing year. I love Arnett's game, he's a competitor, he hits the boards, blocks shots, runs the floor. I think we're going to be way better than we were last year."

Hmmm, that ‘last year' bit can be seen at another angle. Might this be Sidney's last year in college ball? It's not his favorite subject of course, but Sidney understands why that theme will continue from now on into next spring. And yes, he agrees, a professional future played into his rededicated off-season work.

"It's one of the motivating factors. But now I'm trying to stay in the gym and stay low-key."

Not to mention lower-key on the scales each day. Sidney chuckles at the question of whether he's had to restock his wardrobe for smaller sizes. "About another month I will!" he promises. He admits to liking what he sees in a mirror these days, whatever he's wearing.

"I'm very proud of myself. I never thought I'd lose that, I thought I'd be the same weight. But it's staying hungry and staying in the gym." All with the goal of hitting the big gym floor this November ready to put on a great big show. And hey, by then he'll be ready to reveal how many pounds he's packing. A wiseguy writer suggests he use it as a temporary jersey number, which gets a grin…and a counter suggestion.

"I'll probably have a headband on with the number on it, how about that?!"

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