By Matthew Stevens
Renardo Sidney said Monday he will be returning to Mississippi State for his junior season.
The 6-foot-10 forward confirmed directly to the Starkville Daily News while on spring beak in his hometown of Jackson that he will be back for his second season on the floor at Mississippi State.
Sidney averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 season that saw the Bulldogs finish a disappointing 17-14 and receive no postseason invitation for the first time since 2006.
In a direct message with the SDN saying "he will be back", Sidney confirmed the news two days after he posted a message on Facebook giving the impression a return to the Bulldogs program would be likely.
"YES for all you BULLDOG fans I will attend MSU another yr and I promise to work even harder than I have ever work b4 getting in shape is my main focus," Sidney wrote on his alleged Facebook page. "Watch out for them DOGS next season!!!"
Sidney, who had 22 points in just 18 minutes in the season-finale loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Quarterfinals Friday, had previously told the media he wanted to wait until the end of the season to announce his decision.
"I'll wait until I get home and see where we've got to go, NIT or whatever, then I'll make my decision," Sidney said in the locker room after the loss to the Commodores in Atlanta.
According to MSU spokesman Gregg Ellis, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury, who is out of town recruiting this week, hadn't talked to Sidney about the matter yet and wouldn't comment publicly on his player's future until he had done so in person.
By rule Sidney has until May 8 to change his mind and enter the 2011 NBA Draft if he wishes because the NCAA's board of directors voted last year to uphold a measure passed by the legislative council that shortens the time players have to withdraw from the draft process, moving the date up from mid-June to early May.
Sidney was marred in controversy all season starting with his nine-game suspension by the NCAA due to an unethical conduct stemming from the investigation into him receiving impermissible benefits prior to signing and arriving on the Mississippi State campus.
Once Sidney got on the playing floor, he was admittedly overweight and out-of-shape that hampered his ability to play a lot of minutes early on.
"I thought I was in shape," Sidney said on March 8. "The first SEC game showed me I wasn't in shape. I thought I was working hard but after the (75-61 loss to Alabama in Starkville) I just said 'man, I got to keep working hard."
Then Sidney got into a very public physical fight with senior forward Elgin Bailey in the stands of the Diamond Head Classic about 10 minutes before the tip of a game between tournament host Hawaii and Utah at the Stan Sheriff Center. The fight between the two teammates was shown repeatedly on national television and the pair were sent home the next day following the incident.
Eventually Sidney was reinstated for the beginning of Southeastern Conference play, while Bailey chose to transfer to Southeastern Louisiana.
"It was a big mistake," Sidney said. "Elgin and I were very close and he was my roommate. I'm sad that it happened. I just want to get it on over with."
The former McDonald's All-American was criticized all season for his lack of physical movement at times with the boiling point being a loss at Kentucky in February where his perceived laziness was exposed by ESPN replays during the broadcast.
"It's been hard," Sidney said. My mom is very emotional. I had to listen to my mom cry about what I was saying about me on the TV. We're trying to get it together as a family."
Coming out of the 2009 recruiting class as a Top 20 prospect, only two of those players had more points and rebounds than Sidney in their first year of college basketball (DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors) and they were both lottery picks in the following NBA Draft.
"I still think I'm the best big man in the SEC and it's just conditioning now man," Sidney said. "It's not going to be overnight but I'm working on it."
If Sidney, who stated his main goal this offseason was to work on his conditioning with the MSU training staff, stays true to his word and returns for the 2011-12 season, the Bulldogs will be projected as one of the most talented teams in the Southeastern Conference.
Joining Sidney will be starting point guard Dee Bost, who after the loss Friday said he's coming back as well, and a Top 15 recruiting class that included in-state stars Rodney Hood from Meridian, Deville Smith from Jackson and D.J. Gardner from Okolona. Expected to start alongside Sidney in the MSU frontcourt next season is UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie, who Stansbury has already publicly said this preseason was "State's best player right now".