The Ghost of Renardo Sidney


Mar 08, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Gerald Robinson (22) drives to the basket in front of Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Renardo Sidney (1) during the first half of the first round of the 2012 SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

I love Mississippi State Basketball. It’s one of my favorite parts of being a Mississippi State fan. The Hump can be one of the best environments in all of college basketball. So you can imagine just how difficult it is for me to see the team in its current state of affairs.

There are a number of reasons why the team is struggling the way it is: Rick Stansbury being fired, the poor handling of Rick Ray’s hire, being in the middle of a complete rebuild. They are all legitimate reasons. But all of those have one root cause.

Renardo Sidney

A lot of Mississippi State fans don’t know why we ever brought Renardo Sidney onto the basketball team. Those people probably forgot that he was the 2nd ranked prospect in the country. The only reason we even had a chance at getting him was because USC thought he had too much baggage to keep a scholarship offer available to him. When I heard about Sidney getting signed, I thought the only baggage we had to deal with was getting him eligible. I thought that was the big hold up. Little did I know, and many other State fans alike, that we had a much bigger problem with Renardo Sidney coming our way.

Everyone knew that Sidney was going to face at least a small suspension before being allowed to take the court for the 2009-2010 season. There were some amateurism issues that had to be settled because of his father’s dealings with shoes companies and Sidney’s AAU team. During the investigation, Sidney was questioned by the NCAA. During that interview, he did the one thing that the NCAA will punish you heavily for. He lied.

I don’t know what the details are pertaining to how he lied, but I do know that the reason he was not allowed to play at all his freshman season is because he lied when he was interviewed. Had he not lied, the 9 game suspension he started the 2010-2011 season might have been the only punishment he would have had to go through. If that had been the case, we might have gotten the talented big man we all heard about before that season.

But we didn’t get that. Instead of spending his year in limbo being productive by getting stronger and refining his skills, he sulked and ate jelly doughnuts apparently. His attitude sucked (and that is putting it mildly), and refused to give any effort. Just a few games into his career at Mississippi State, he gets into a fight with Elgin Bailey on national television while watching a game at the Diamondhead Classic in Hawaii.

It was at this point that it became obvious to Bulldog fans that Sidney would not be worth the trouble he was going to cause. I agreed, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to happen. The athletic department had spent tons in time and resources just getting Sidney eligible. He was too big of an investment for the team to simply cut loose. He was like an NFL team that drafted a quarterback with the #1 overall selection. He gets a big signing bonus and more guaranteed money, and you start to build your team around him. You can’t just turn and go another direction at the drop of a hat because so much is invested in that player. And because of that, Rick Stansbury lost his team.

If you look at the Stansbury era, the one thing that was always evident, even with the teams that weren’t that great, was defensive intensity. Players gave full effort and worked their butts off on the defensive end of the court. Sidney was so out of shape, he could only contribute on one end of the floor, and it certainly wasn’t about to be defense. He virtually ignored Stansbury’s attempts to get him in shape, and as a result, the other players started tuning him out as well. The 2011-2012 season saw a talented Bulldog squad that could play with anyone, but on the defensive end, the team seemed indifferent about trying to make a defensive stop. Teams shot 43.3% from the field against the Bulldogs that year, one of the highest percentages ever during the Stansbury era. So long as Stansbury was playing someone who didn’t care about defense, the rest of the team wasn’t going to care about defense.

I knew that Stansbury was taking a huge gamble on Sidney. It was the type of gamble that can cost a coach his job if it doesn’t work out. In the end, it did. It was Stansbury’s decision to bring Sidney into the fold, so he ultimately had to be the one responsible for it. Who knows what would have happened to this team if Sidney never put on the maroon and white. I like to think that Stansbury would have gotten more out of his players in his final year, which would have led to him keeping his job. The recruiting class that was coming in would have remained in tact, and there wouldn’t have been the catastrophic drop off that we suffered in 2013. Rodney Hood would be having a break out season for us instead of Duke. I truly believe we wouldn’t be in such a difficult rebuild like we are now.

So when you watch our basketball team in the coming months, and wonder how did we make such a bad pass. Or how did we commit that turnover. Or why don’t we have a reliable perimeter scorer. Just remember this: Renardo Sidney’s presence is still haunts us to this day.