Renardo Sidney, basketball’s latest cautionary tale

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The sad tale of Renardo Sidney is one that every single Division I basketball prospect should be told.

As a middle schooler, Sidney was a can’t miss talent. In eighth grade, he was considered the best player in the country in his age group. Most expected him to eventually become the next great one-and-done player, possibly even the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

In high school, Sidney bought into his hype, moving from his native Mississippi to California in an effort to get more exposure and compete against the best that the LA area had to offer. But all that ended up happening was that Sidney and his family not-so-subtly lined their pockets, enough that it drew the attention of the NCAA. UCLA got scared off. USC did as well. Sidney ended up enrolling at Mississippi State, where the NCAA suspended him for a full season plus nine games of the following season for the illegal benefits and the lies he told to try and cover it up.

By the time Sidney finally saw the court in college, he was far too overweight to play enough significant minutes. He seemed to lack the motivation to improve, both in regards to his conditioning and his off-court temperament. His second year at MSU, Sidney got into a pair of fights with teammates, including an ugly brawl with Elgin Bailey that was caught by ESPN’s cameras in Hawaii.

The irony?

If Sidney had given half the effort to getting in shape that he did in trying to drop Bailey with a haymaker he may have heard his name called by David Stern in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Because for all the excess fat — Sidney weighed in at 304 pounds with 22.4% body fat, the second-highest in the database hosted by Draft Express — and the horrendous conditioning, the talent Sidney has was still evident. He was nimble, quick even, with good feet for a man his size. He had touch around the basket and range on his jump shot. His wingspan (7’4.5″ at the combine) and his vertical (30″ without a step, a good number for a 6-foot-10 power forward that’s actually in shape) should give you a glimpse of just what kind of player Sidney was earlier in his career.

Instead, Sidney has now burned through his second agent since the draft process started and has seemingly accepted the fact that his talent has officially been wasted.

“This whole NBA process is really tough and with me dropping two agents, it really doesn’t look good for me right now,” Sidney told Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger. “Like you said, it sounds like I’m lost. I can admit that I’m lost. I’m just trying to find my way back and see on Thursday what happens.”

So keep this in mind, recruits. Remember what happens when you buy into your hype and when you expect everything yo be handed to you. Guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are exceptional talents with undeniable athletic gifts, but they also work incredibly hard at their craft. LeBron didn’t win a title until he developed a post-game. You think that happened by accident? Durant is a three-time NBA scoring champ because he’s 6-foot-10 with the perimeter skills of a shooting guard. You think that he was born with range out to 30-feet and the ability to handle the ball like a player eight inches shorter?

If I could ask Sidney one question right now, it would be ‘Where all the hangers-on and yes men are right now?’. Where are the people that told you how good you were? Where are the people that were funneling money to your family? Where are the runners and the agents and the shoe companies? Where is everyone who told you that you made it because a couple of websites wrote about you as a 14 year old?

They certainly aren’t going to be with you during the draft.

“I want to be around family when the draft comes on,” Sidney told Marcello. “I didn’t want to be alone.”

So if you are Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker or Julius Randle — or anyone that made this list, for that matter — keep that in mind. Bookmark this page.

Remember the plight of Renardo Sidney the next time someone tells you that you’re the next NBA superstar.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.