Renardo Sidney is a frustrating player to watch.
I think its fair to say that he may actually be the most frustrating player in the country to watch.
I understand now why everyone — from agents to runners to the shoe companies to the people that write about high schoolers — was so enamored with this kid. You can see it in glimpses. He’s probably a good 30 pounds over weight, but he’s nimble and he’s coordinated. He’s quick on his feet. It makes you salivate thinking about the kind of mobility and athleticism he would have if he dropped the baby weight.
Its not just his physical tools, either. He understands how to make a rim-run in transition, sealing his defender under the basket. He can move without the ball and knows how to operate in the pick-and-roll. He has some moves with his back-to-the-basket. For a power forward, there really isn’t much that Sidney isn’t able to do.
The problem is how long he is able to do it for. Three minutes into Mississippi State’s 68-58 loss to Akron, Sidney made a terrific rim-run, sprinting the length of the floor and sealing Zeke Marshall, a seven-footer currently on the NBA radar, for what would have been an easy lay-up had he been given the entry pass. That sprint, however, gassed Sidney. He barely made it back to the other end to play defense and, after the Bulldogs got a stop, he didn’t come within 25 feet of the rim on MSU’s ensuing possession.
And therein lies the problem.
There was some significant discussion on twitter during the game about whether or not we are too quick in judging Sidney two games into the season. Matt Norlander wrote a post of his own on it after the game. While I don’t disagree per se, I think its quite obvious just how little actual work Sidney did on his conditioning this offseason. He may have dropped some pounds and streamlined his body a bit, but looking better for the beach doesn’t mean you got yourself into shape to play basketball at the SEC level.
Sidney’s conditioning is so bad that Rick Stansbury hasn’t used him — his most talented player — in crunch time of Mississippi State’s first two games. On Wednesday, Marshall fouled out of the game with 3:17 left on the clock, and Stansbury left Sidney sitting on his bench despite being down 62-56 at the time.
Stansbury said after the game that he left Sidney on the bench because the big fella would have been a defensive liability against a smaller lineup. Well, Sidney was also a defensive liability when Akron had their starters on the floor. Its just another symptom for what truly ails Sindey — apathy. He just doesn’t seem to care.
If he does care, he will get himself into shape. If he does care, he won’t be ok with sitting on the sidelines while his team’s games are won and lost. If he does care, getting outplayed by mid-major big men will be an issue.
There is still time for Sidney to change the direction this season is heading in.
But 80 minutes in, the new Renardo Sidney doens’t appear to be any different than the old Renardo Sidney.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.