July 23, 2011 9:59:00 PM
Maybe John Lucas should coach the Mississippi State men''s basketball team.
Maybe the Bulldogs should change their plans for a European trip and take a detour to Texas.
Neither of those things are going to happen -- at least not this season or next month -- but just when you thought it was safe to give Rick Stansbury''s team a fresh look, the same old problems popped up again.
Typically, offseason trips are a great way for teams to build chemistry. The best times to take them often are when a team has new pieces in bigger roles or new players it wants to fit into the puzzle.
That''s why MSU''s five-game slate in Europe, which begins Aug. 5 in Amsterdam, makes perfect sense. Stansbury''s crew has an experienced point guard in Dee Bost, a newcomer at power forward in Arnett Moultrie, a promising class of newcomers, and a group of players that will be expected to take on bigger roles in 2011-12.
MSU also has Renardo Sidney.
Trouble is, Sidney, the oft-suspended, oh-so-talented power forward, won''t accompany the Bulldogs on their trip. Instead, MSU released a statement earlier this week informing everyone Sidney was returning to Houston, Texas to work with former NBA All-Star and coach John Lucas. Presumably, the work will be intensive and will be designed to get Sidney, who weighed 320 pounds in May when he arrived in Houston, down to a better playing weight. Sidney said he lost 23 pounds after the initial stint with Lucas. He didn''t divulge his weight earlier this month when he talked to members of the media, but he said he wanted to lose another 20 pounds before the start of the men''s basketball season in November.
Sidney was enrolled at MSU for summer classes for the July term, and he is expected to return to school for the beginning of the fall semester. MSU started team practice this week.
Ideally, any coach would want to have a
6-foot-10 player who averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds in 19 games last season with their team for a trip overseas. It was astounding to read MSU''s most recent press release about Sidney because I know of no coach who would abdicate responsibility for monitoring or working a player back into shape.
Sidney has been on MSU''s campus for two years and in that time he has been suspended twice, including once last December after he and former MSU center Elgin Bailey fought in between games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
When he has been on the court, Sidney has looked fatigued after spitting out a mouthguard. Still, he has received chance after chance after chance.
How can a player with access to trainers and all the workout equipment anyone could need not put himself in the best position possible to succeed?
How can a player who needs to lose weight not work with a dietitian to change his eating habits or alter his behavior?
How can a coach who has given a player a scholarship not hold that individual to a standard and then expect him to meet it?
Something is very wrong here, and I am afraid it will impact a 2011-12 season that should be filled with so much promise. After all, how do you expect any of MSU''s returning players -- let alone the newcomers -- not to laugh when Stansbury attempts to set discipline. Stansbury has allowed the situation to get to this point, and Sidney''s failure to get himself ready for the trip to Europe is as much the fault of the coach as it is Sidney''s. Stansbury should have given Sidney an ultimatum before he left to return to Houston: Be at a certain weight by the time you get back or you''re gone.
All it takes in team sports is one player to infect a team and to ruin its chances for success. Bailey saw how quickly cancers can spread last year when he opted to leave MSU''s program. No one is taking Bailey off the hook because he was a willing and able participant in the fight that embarrassed MSU, but who is to stay someone on this season''s team won''t say something to Sidney that will spark another incident.
Why take the chance?
That has to be the same thing at least some professional scouts are thinking. Sidney hasn''t demonstrated he can make a sustained commitment to MSU, his teammates, or his coaches. Is it because he is immature? Is it because he is listening to the "wrong people?" Is it because he is fixated on the 2012 NBA draft?
"I''m trying to stay low," Sidney told reporters earlier this month. "Last year was the worst year for me. I''m trying to get my image back out there. I''m not worried about twitter or Facebook. Just stay in the gym."
The announcement Sidney is returning to Texas re-opens all of the speculation and makes him the center of attention before the team officially opens practice. I thought that was what he didn''t want?
Sidney can play basketball, though, and someone undoubtedly will take a chance on Sidney, regardless of if he weighs 335 or 300 pounds.
There''s no way I would recommend any NBA team waste a pick on Sidney. Yes, he can hit a jump shot, handle a basketball, and be a terror on the block. But there is so much more to being a team player, and all Sidney has shown us to this point is he is selfish, he operates on only his agenda, and he is capable of taking a team down with him.
That''s OK, though, because if Sidney continues on his current course he will get a chance to see Europe again. It won''t be as a promising player looking to cash in on NBA dreams. It will be as another player who wasted an opportunity and God-given ability who is playing in an outpost few of us are able to pronounce.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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