Dee Bost is primed to feed the Bulldogs' big men -- whoever they may be.
John W. McDonough/SI
This article appears in the November 23, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
Each new morning at Mississippi State brings more of the same. "We're all anxiously waiting," sophomore Dee Bost says. "We want him. We need him."
The him is freshman Renardo Sidney, a 6' 10" power forward who was heralded as the next Magic Johnson when he was all of 14 years old. Without Sidney the Bulldogs are very good: They have the nation's most fearsome shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado, as well as an underrated backcourt in junior Barry Stewart and floor general Bost. ("Dee's temperature doesn't change much," says coach Rick Stansbury.) But with Sidney? Well, they want him -- need him -- because he can upgrade MSU from an SEC power into a Final Four dark horse.
Sidney, however, has caught the eye of NCAA investigators, and at week's end the Eligibility Center was refusing to approve his amateur status until it determined how the player's family could afford to rent the Los Angeles house (reportedly valued at $1.2 million) that it lived in for two years while Renardo attended Fairfax Senior High. Despite the investigation, Stansbury offered Sidney a scholarship last May, and to make fiscal room Varnado, a 6' 9" All-SEC power forward, agreed to pay his own way this season. The school cleared Sidney academically, and he has been practicing with the team. Meanwhile Sidney's lawyer, Donald Jackson, chafes at the NCAA's continued requests for bank and phone records. Says Jackson, "I've said from the very beginning, there's nothing here."
A long tournament run becomes probable with the additions of Sidney -- who would nudge Varnado over to center -- and 7' 2" Sudanese freshman John Riek, who will sit out the first nine games for receiving unspecified benefits at Winchedon (Mass.) School. "They give us quality depth, at each slot," assistant Robert Kirby says. "They make us really versatile." But for now, also really anxious.
-- Pablo S. Torre
Issue date: November 23, 2009