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Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 2:53 pm  |  36 responses

Renardo Sidney at Pacific Shores Tourney

‘The Difference’ goes to work.

Words by Justin Walsh

Renardo Sidney. 6-10, 245 pounds. Passing skills in the same vein of LeBron James. Post Moves reminiscent of Chris Webber. His jumper has similar range to that of Chris Bosh.

Further insight into his potential—despite never talking prior to the night of the 2007 NBA Draft, Greg Oden made one of his first phone calls just after being drafted No. 1. He didn’t call a coach or a friend. He called Renardo Sidney. “[Oden] just told me to keep working hard and listen to my parents,” Sidney said. “Then he had to go do some interviews.” One could question Oden for calling the then-junior big man, but most realize the reason: Renardo Sidney was projected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft by many scouts, even shoe-guru Sonny Vaccaro.

NBA comparisons aside, Renardo is his own man. He received his first full ride offer from Alabama in the seventh grade, without media hype. Just his ability to play basketball. In 2006, some media criticized the Sidney family for relocating the talented big man from Jackson, Miss. to Lakewood, Calif. in 2006. Sidney and his father were simply thinking ahead, calculating the next progression.

“The same thing was said about O.J. Mayo [in committing to USC instead of a more perennial powerhouse]—more marketing. Mississippi is a small pond. I love it as my home, but you have to go to a bigger market to get Renardo’s name out,” said Renardo Sr. in a Sports Illustrated feature on Renardo a full two years ago.

It’s thought that Renardo could go to USC, the same destination as O.J., or UNLV, where many Los Angeles area players are playing ball these days. Las Vegas is a great spot for marketing. Some media personnel question whether or not Sidney can handle playing with other high-level talent, amidst rumors of a bad attitude. They seem to forget that in his sophomore campaign, Sidney played at Artesia HS with James Harden, among others, leading Artesia to a state title.

He has also played a few tournaments in the AAU circuits with guest-player and All-American, Lance Stephenson for his team, the LA Dream Team (also coached by Renardo Sr.).

Renardo doesn’t always go with the flow. At 18 years old, he still sucks his thumb. He even travels with a lucky blanket (which his father clarifies as being a sheet). He also irked a few scouts when he told the Washington Post at age 16 that high school basketball isn’t that important. It was even rumored that he wouldn’t play high school basketball at all, focusing on AAU ball instead. Upon moving to California at age 16, his father was hired as a basketball consultant for Reebok, earning about $20,000 per year, doing nothing but flying his son to Reebok-sponsored events.

Another thing that worries some people is that the LA Dream Team is classified as a non-profit company. What does that mean? Renardo Sr. could technically accept NCAA-legal, charitable donations from college teams interested in his players. That makes some people a little iffy. Matter of fact, some people just don’t like Renardo Sidney. They think his personality, coupled with the fact that he might skip college for Euroleague play (much like Brandon Jennings).

Before you allow yourself to be down on the cat, consider this. In 2005, Michael McCann, then an assistant professor at Mississippi College School of Law, looked at 84 recent NBA player arrests. He found that 57 percent of the players arrested spent four years in college; only 4.8 percent had never gone to college, significantly less than the league-wide share of prep-to-pro players (8.3 percent). One might see an interesting trend—not going to college might lessen a basketball players’ chance for getting arrested.

More criticism has been made with Renardo’s style of play, specifically, his preference to play on the perimeter. Sonny Vaccaro is extremely annoyed with this evaluation. “I’m tired of that. I’m tired of the vilification of these kids,” he goes on. “It’s sinful. It’s ethnic cleansing. Street basketball to them has a connotation—they think street basketball is black. Well, they better hope it’s black, because the majority of players playing the game has been black since they allowed blacks to play.”

All the arguments, debates and evaluation aside, Renardo Sidney isn’t called “The Difference” for nothing. His game is ridiculous. Kevin Love was quoted saying Renardo was “ahead of his time.” He loves crisp, no-look passes. He enjoys the daunting footwork that makes the scouts think back to the days when “The Dream” squeaked his shoes against the hardwood. It’s safe to say at his size, at this stage in his basketball career, elegance can be misconstrued as nonchalance.

This season, he has tightened the screws. He is pissed about dropping in the rankings last year. He isn’t satisfied. He lost 30 pounds before the start of his senior season after the summer to make sure he is ready to retain his spot as the best player in high school basketball. Renardo Sidney is the best player in high school basketball. You can agree and nod along, or you can disagree, rattle of the names of a few players and sip your “hateraide.” Either way, pay attention to “The Difference.”

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    He seems like one of the most talented bigs to come around in a long time. If anyone, Oden knows who’s next! Also, I’m not sure why people complain if their center likes the 17-footer every now and again. It’s clear he can play inside and has definite post moves to boot. But, Justin, you say he sucks his thumb still?

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    LeBron still bites his nails, I guess that’s a versatile forward habit!

  • http://iwantoutofokc.com/ James the balla

    All I have to say is Granmama!!

    The next Larry. He looks like a beast!!

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Granmama, hahah nice nickname drop from the Johnson days. Also, he COULD go to UNLV, Granmama’s alma mater! His realistic choices are UNLV, USC, UCLA. I mean, ESPN mentions Virginia, but I don’t think they have a realistic chance in hell.

  • http://docfunk.blogspot.com Doc Funk

    Damn, pick on someone your own size.

  • BigWalt206

    Dude still sucks his thumb? Lucky Blanket fine, but I don’t care how hot the kicks are, I’m not wearing a thumbsucker’s shoe. That doesn’t feel manly to me. All raised eyebrows aside, the kid is unreal. Hope he makes a pit stop at USC so I can get one look at him in Hec-Ed before the L.

  • Jackie Moon

    HOLY SHNIKES, bottom feeding teams should start tanking NOW to get this guy in 2010!

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    haha, he did. On January 23rd on ESPN2, he dominated SDHS and Jeremy Tyler (Jeremy got his 29 and 9 but was destroyed on the defensive end and twice Renardo swatted his post move attempt without jumping) Tyler is 6’10 with a 7’2 wingspan and ridiculous hops. He’s top 5 in the nation for 2010- Renardo picked on someone his size alright! haha

  • http://docfunk.blogspot.com Doc Funk

    Good look @JW. I’m convinced.. and a little frightened to be honest.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Doc, I am under the same assumption you are. This guys skill-set is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s. He gets the same kind of hate OJ Mayo got in HS- doesn’t work hard enough, doesn’t seem to be playing with a killer instinct. When in reality he just leads his teams to HUGE victories. He beat Jeremy Tyler’s team by 40 (although, one must agree that SDHS had 3 players ineligible due to the CIF being a tyrannical group of people hellbent on punishing kids for going to HS)

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    I was watching him the other night on ESPN2 and he looked like a grown ass man playing with a bunch of little kids. Great piece, Justin.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    I’m glad you saw that unfair game of Renardo being Renardo. Part Lamar Oden, part KG. Not kidding.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    This guy’s game is ridic. The thumb sucking will need to get deaded, but he’s got “1 and done – First overall” written all over him. I actually like that he has perimeter skills, he’ll need to do most of his damage inside in the pros, but I’d rather have a super-skilled big than a Oden/Chandler-style big who can barely convert a drop step.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Ciolkstar, his inside game is POLISHED like a trophy. I mean it. He has a spin move that the DREAM made himself, I swear it’s uncanny. He loves post footwork, it’s just that he can take the defender outside and embarrass him. He also rocks in the transition. If you saw the Fairfax/San Diego game, it was like he was a giant among ants.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I think the concerns about “killer instinct” are probably misplaced. I mean, the kid is obviously SO much better than 99.9% of HS competition, so he’s out there having a little fun. It IS still a game after all. The scary part is that he probably still doesn’t even know how good he can be.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    yeah, you are right, he is just a big ARE YOU ****ING KIDDING of talent. He doesn’t have to try to drop 30 and 10. He did that on Jeremy Tyler with a SMILE on his face.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Exactly Walsh. I mean if I was that kid and I had a silky J and could beast inside all day, believe I’d step outside sometimes. Just because I could. I imagine he’s just trying to keep himself entertained out there.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    True. Sometimes we disagree, but here I find myself 100% in line with your opinion here. He just does it for the reason of “I can.”

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Dude, what was the relevance of the paragraph about “the chance of getting arrested”? Seemed out of place in the overall vibe of the article. Otherwise, nice piece. I’ll be looking out for this kid.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    It was in reference to people hating his attitude. Rivals, as well as hoopscoop find his attitude to be horrible. They expect him to get arrested at some point. Sorry I didn’t explicitly mention that Cheryl. It was just to show that just because someone goes against the grain, does not mean he is destined to fail.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Oh, okay. 16 year olds usually do have bad attitudes. I know I did! :-) Thanks for the clarification.

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com nbk

    He seems like he could end up to be at his worst Derrick Coleman, at his best a super-sized karl malone

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    fair evaluation nbk, but his skill-set is much more than a Malone player. His handles and jumpshot are far more advanced

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com nbk

    Didn’t see much of his handles…—the malone i envision is the late 90′s malone mixed with his mailman slams…its a distorted view

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    we have more Sidney footage on the ballislifedotcom youtube channel nbk, i’m sure we have more of his handles!

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com nbk

    I’ll check it out

  • http://www.ballislife.com Arek

    I dunno about the Chris Bosh range.. Sidney has way more range.

  • Jeremy

    How serious is his interest in UNLV? I had heard that they were on him and then were off one of his recent published lists. Who would you say leads for his services?

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    ^For real?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Nice Justin, I needed to get me some Sidney footage.

    Would love to see him play in the Mountain West.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Cub, we have more footage of him, I’ll e-mail you some. and yeah, he would do well. Jeremy to answer your question, he’s a man who likes keeping people guessing, he’s a kid at heart…so honestly, it’s anybody’s guess. USC and UNLV seem to be the frontrunners though

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    I read about this dude somewhere, I remember the thumb sucking thing. Didn’t he have a problem with his weight?

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    yeah, lost 30 pounds in 3 months time, is destroying the entire HS ranks this year for Fairfax.

  • http://Courtcred.com Coop

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    CHECK OUT THE KENNY HALL(ESPNU #59) INTERVIEW ON COURTCRED.COM!!!
    CHECK OUT THE KENNY HALL(ESPNU #59) INTERVIEW ON COURTCRED.COM!!!
    CHECK OUT THE KENNY HALL(ESPNU #59) INTERVIEW ON COURTCRED.COM!!!
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  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    hahah, Coop, any chance that you are plugging for the interview you recently did? :)

  • mike

    His stock has fallen big time. He is not even considered a draft propect in the future.

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