Oh, Renardo Sidney. How would we overcome our mid-July offseason blogging doldrums without you?
First things first: It might well be a very positive thing for Sidney and his teammates that he has decided not to accompany Mississippi State on its five-game European exhibition trip in the coming weeks. Instead, Sidney is going back to Houston to do what he's been doing for much of the summer: working out and slimming down with former NBA veteran John Lucas. (And yes, that could be the title of an at-home basketball aerobics video. John, call me! This is gold, baby!)
Still, given Sidney's history -- his ineligibility, his inability to get in shape, his propensity for suspensions last season -- it's hard not to raise an eyebrow. Why, exactly, is Sidney not yet ready to play in exhibition games with his teammates? Why are most college basketball players able to get (or stay) in shape during the spring and summer while Sidney is not? And, OK, so maybe he's not in perfect shape, but is that really the rationale for skipping a trip, and all the teamwork and camaraderie it is designed to foster, altogether? Sidney gave his explanation to the Clarion-Ledger:
Sidney said there’s no hidden reason for his departure, and he plans to return to Starkville on Aug. 14. Fall classes begin Aug. 17.
“Everybody has their own opinion but I’m doing what I have to do,” Sidney told The Clarion-Ledger. “There’s nothing else going on. They can say what they want to say but, like I said, I know what I have to do basketball-wise. I wasn’t ready to go and I felt like I really wasn’t in shape. I wanted to come back down here and get some more work.”
The statement released by Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury echoes those return dates, so there doesn't seem to be some nefarious under-the-table reason for his decision not to join his teammates overseas. So, hey, maybe this is a good thing. Maybe Sidney knows he's not in game shape yet, maybe he realizes exhibitions in Europe aren't his highest priority, and maybe he'll return to the Bulldogs in August looking trim, fit and ready to finally play up to his potential in the coming hoops season.
All of that is very much on the table. But Sidney already carries more than his fair share of baggage. Frankly, it's hard not to be a little bit curious. At best, his conditioning -- which, remember, was supposed to have improved by this time last summer -- remains an issue. At worst, there's something deeper going on here.