STARKVILLE — The hype surrounding Mississippi State sophomore forward Renardo Sidney has yet to be witnessed at Humphrey Coliseum.
The show-stopping athleticism and inside-out game can be found on Youtube.com and recruiting websites, but Sidney hasn”t flashed a single highlight in Starkville.
Sidney has spent most of his career on the bench awaiting the conclusion of his year-long fight with the NCAA to gain eligibility.
When he has been on the court, at least in Starkville, he”s been underwhelming.
In the Bulldogs” preseason intra-squad scrimmage, which was open to the public, Sidney was visibly frustrated and ended up leaving the two-hour session with cramps.
He didn”t play in the Bulldogs” exhibition opener against Lindsey Wilson College.
Sidney had 10 points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of work of the Bulldogs” exhibition win over Belhaven, held in Sidney”s hometown of Jackson.
The Belhaven match was supposed to be Sidney”s jump-off for a five-game swing that would stretch from the Bahamas, to Hawaii and to Las Vegas.
Instead, Sidney returns for his official home debut today against Alabama (8-6) with just two games under his belt and the Bulldogs reeling from four losses in five games.
Two suspensions in Hawaii forced Sidney to miss three games, and a public altercation with former teammate and roommate Elgin Bailey ultimately resulted in Bailey transferring.
Sidney”s public reputation ranges from enigmatic to misunderstood, depending on who you talk to.
Players haven”t expressed any issues with Sidney — at least not publicly — but held a players-only meeting since being back in Starkville.
“We talked for a little bit and just tried to lay some stuff out there, if anybody had anything they could get it off their chest and try and grow,” senior guard Riley Benock said. “As a team, we know what we need to do. We”re confident we”ll get it done.”
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury hopes the incidents in Hawaii are the last off-the-court distractions from Sidney.
“We”ll find out in the future what he”s learned,” Stansbury said. “You hope anytime someone experiences what he”s been through, it makes him a better person first. That”s the number one thing. After that, you hope it translates into him becoming a better basketball player.”
Sidney has been stellar in the two games he”s played, including a 19-point, six-rebound effort against San Diego and 12 points against Virginia Tech.
However, Sidney has nine fouls in both games and fouled out of the Virginia Tech game.
Sidney has talked about losing weight, returning to the court and dominating in the post in his limited media opportunities
“I don”t feel like anybody in the nation can stop me there,” Sidney said prior to the Belhaven match.
Sidney will have his hands full with Alabama forward Jamychal Green, a former McDonald”s All-American who has gone through similar ups and downs in Tuscaloosa.
Green was suspended by head coach Anthony Grant last season and for three games this season for conduct detrimental to the team after the Crimson Tide lost three games in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Green has averaged 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in six games since returning to the lineup.
Without Bailey, the Bulldogs will lean on Sidney even more with sophomore reserves Wendell Lewis and John Riek the only other options at center.
“He”s got to step in the first night and go against a really, really good big man, which is going to happen most nights in the SEC,” Stansbury said. “Are they all as good as Green? I don”t know that, but no question he has a challenge right off the bat.”