- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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If Renardo Sidney is going to justify Mississippi State's risky investment in his talent after a year spent haggling with the NCAA over eligibility -- and impress NBA scouts enough to make good on his prediction of NBA entry next summer -- he's going to have to produce. All-time leading shot-blocker Jarvis Varnado is now with the Miami Heat, and if Mississippi State wants to get over the tournament bubble hump that it tripped over last year, Sidney's interior presence will be a big reason why.
Fortunately for Bulldogs fans, it's looking like the big man has things pretty much figured out. To wit: MSU senior Ravern Johnson told Jeff Eisenberg that Sidney is working, looking good, and staying trim:
"He looks great," Johnson said Monday by phone. "He's trimmed down, he's motivated and he's playing really well. I think he's going to help us a lot next season once we get him back."
That motivation part has always been the biggest concern about Sidney's career. The third-ranked power forward in the class of 2009, Sidney's strange recruitment situation -- when he essentially moved to Los Angeles to be recruited by USC and UCLA, and where his family may or may not have been paying for their residence before USC rescinded its scholarship offer to the player -- turned many teams away.
Then, as the NCAA attempted to determine whether Sidney's family had received improper benefits during his recruitment, family lawyer Don Jackson insinuated the NCAA was being racist and threatened to take his client's case to a special hearing in Congress.
Now, after sitting out a year amidst the nonsense about congressional hearings, Sidney will become eligible by repaying $11,000 the NCAA found his family had received and sitting out nine games. It's not exactly a rip-roaring start to one's career. But it sounds as if the year off could be a net positive. The forward had time to focus, get in shape and work on his game. It will be interesting to see just how much that work paid off.