Now That It's Over

One of the most difficult things for people in our business to admit is that they were unaware a big story was about to break. I, for one, plead guilty to assuming Renardo Sidney's college decision was final and that his interesting journey from Piney Woods to Hollywood had come to an official end. The final chapter was yet to be written and someone tried to warn me, but I still needed convincing.

Last Friday started just like every other Friday for me. The euphoria of knowing the day job work week was coming to an end was beginning to set in along with the anticipation of a fun weekend with the family.

The first thing I do each morning is check my e-mail. You would be surprised at the number of tips that find their way to my inbox along with several offers from foreign nationals to make me a rich man if I am willing to supply my personal banking information for them to wire millions out of their war wrought homeland.

A few combine questions surrounded this tasty morsel:

Steve,

I heard yesterday that Renardo Sidney was going to be on campus visiting with the coaches this weekend.

Do you know if there is anything going on?

My reponse was my customary, "Thanks for the info, I'll check it out."

Now I was trying to be cordial, but my mind had already shifted gears into football coverage completely. With the ink still damp on Wendell Lewis' letter of intent, I dismissed the e-mail as just another rumor.

Saturday morning we rolled out bright and early for my youngest son's Tee Ball game and then over to Oni's baseball practice.

Before we could get through the first round of BP, my phone started ringing and ringing and ringing.

The calls were coming from all over and everyone had the same question, "Is Renardo Sidney on campus?"

Before I could even fully digest the moment, a text message rolls in from someone who would know Renardo if he saw him: "Renardo is in Starkvegas Baby!!!"

A few phone calls later, I discover that Sidney's 6-10 frame in an official MSU issue golf cart was causing a bit of a stir on campus. It appeared the big man was really on campus and this was no fire drill. This was the real McCoy.

A call to Gene goes to voice mail. He's probably at the movies. I call again and send a text message. No response.

My good pal Brandon Huffman is also unavailable.

You have to know Brandon to understand. Huffman, our West Regional Manager, has the mind of a steel trap. He knows basketball recruiting as well as anyone. He is a tremendous resource.

My resource's voice mail is all I get.

Two more calls to contacts on the west coast also go unanswered.

A few thoughts come to mind.

First and foremost where is everybody and why aren't they answering their phones?

Where is Gene? Are he and Mary Ann watching a double feature? How long will the show last? Are they showing North and South at the Starkville cinema?

Is this whole Sidney development a big charade? Am I being punked by all of my friends? Is this some elaborate plot to get me to post the info on the message board, so everyone can have a laugh at my expense? How does Swindoll know Huffman and are they working together?

Am I being Emfingered?

Finally, the phone rings. It turns out Sidney has not signed with USC and there is a rising school of thought that he is back on the market.

Gene calls back and yes he has been at the movies. They were playing Pippy Longstocking 5 or some must see event, but whatever.

I bring him up to speed and we both get back on the phone.

Calls around the network reveal that there is more to this than I originally thought. Dave Telep even goes as far as putting an article out that pretty much projects Sidney to be a Bulldog in the immediate future.

Our chat peeps and recruiting forum readers were offered this nugget Sunday evening:

Bone#5 Renardo Sidney did visit MSU this past weekend, but that visit was unofficial. I have heard just about every scenario possible at this point about Renardo. The two things we know for certain are that he is no longer a USC commitment and that he reportedly had a good time at MSU. Several people close to the situation believe he could be a Bulldog within the next 48-72 hours, but until the info is in hand it's still not a done deal.

Monday was a blur. Calls, e-mails, text messages, smoke signals and carrier piegons all went out in an attempt to glean some information from anyone who was willing to offer it.

The relationship with USC was broken and State appeared to be in prime position to reel in a monster fish.

The Sidneys weren't talking and most people close to them were very guarded in their comments.

Huffman finally calls back, slacker, and we talk for what seemed like an hour. Great info and even better he put me in touch with some people who would have a much better idea of the current happenings.

Monday evening we shared this update with the peeps:

Bone#5 I learned today that things changed with Renardo Sidney once he received a qualifying SAT score. I am told USC is not in the picture any longer. Once he made the score he opened himself up to other schools again. I was told late this evening that all of this could come to fruition in the next 48 hours. Things look better now than ever.

Tuesday proved to be the most productive day yet. I was able to speak to someone extremely close to Renardo who agreed to speak off the record as long as I never cited him as a source or quoted him in any articles.

It appeared that it was pretty much a done deal, but that the family wanted to sit down as a group and be sure about things before making their decision official.

Everything this person told me came to fruition. He even went as far as telling me when Renardo would sign and that the talk about him going to Europe was unfounded.

#5 Don't hold me to this, but I am told that Renardo Sidney is expected to render his decision on Thursday. I am told playing in Europe is not an option they are considering now and that MSU's case has gone from possible to be probable. No press conference is planned at this point. It will probably be a situation where they fax in their letter and release a statement.

Wednesday was pretty much a dead day. No real developments and no real changes. Everyone was pretty sure things were winding down and that Thursday would be the day.

No one was willing to speak on the record which is understandable, but frustrating at the same time.

The biggest things I reeled in on Wednesday was that people like Renardo. Despite all the hype and media coverage, he is just a regular kid. A regular kid with a lot of talent and high profile in the world of basketball.

While some told me he wasn't always motivated every night out or that he didn't always dominate when he could, no one ever said he was a bad kid or a kid with an attitude.

It was all pretty refreshing to hear. Those who knew him best, had nothing but praise for how he had kept a level head about everything.

I went to bed with a headache Wednesday night.

Was I being given good information?

Had I listened to the right people?

Will he sign?

All of those questions went through my head and as I got up Thursday morning I went to work being sure about the answers.

The first phone call of the day leads me to believe that it's simply a matter of time now.

I am told the paperwork has been signed, but a call to the Fairfax High School office secretary confirms no fax has been sent from their office.

I speak to Coach Harvey Kitani at Fairfax, Renardo's coach, and he pretty much confesses that he is not 100% sure what the Sidneys are going to do or when they are going to do it.

My conversation with Kitani settled very little, but after speaking with him it again seemed to be just a matter of time before Sidney was a Bulldog.

Not long after hanging up with the folks at Fairfax, I receive word that the paperwork was signed and on it's way to a fax machine.

Now I wanted to believe this, but after my dealings with Kenny Ashley I have learned that fax machines in California and Starkville, Mississippi often have strained relationships, but I digress.

The paperwork was officially received and we were able to confirm this with the University and with Renardo himself.

It was over for everybody. The roller coaster ride of recruitment had made it's final stop.

Renardo's mother said the big man cried when he signed. In contrast, Mississippi State fans cheered.

A journey that had taken Sidney from the recreational leagues of Jackson, Mississippi to to the hustle and bustle of the big cities of California now had it's final destination, home.

In the end Mississippi State could offer Renardo something the big schools of the west coast could not, the chance to play in front of friends and family.

The first time I heard the name Renardo Sidney, he was billed as the next big thing. He was dubbed the best basketball prospect ever from the state of Mississippi. He was a phenom. He was an eighth grader......

Now that it is over, I am reminded of the human aspect of it all.

A young man who was best known at the beginning of his high school career as the player who was trying to go to Piney Woods had turned into the biggest recruiting story in the country for the spring signing period.

He left friends and extended family in Mississippi and headed west to make a name for himself.

He had his game broken down, praised and criticized by people he would never meet. He had been profiled by both the New York and LA Times, but in the end the hometown boy that made good was just ready to come home.

Renardo has seen just about everything the recruiting process has to offer both good and bad, but at the end of it all he was ready to be a big deal to those he loved the most and to those who knew him best.

He left Mississippi as a kid with a dream, he comes home a Bulldog.


Gene's Page Top Stories