Dodging Disaster: How the Trojans Saved Themselves from Renardo Sidney

Back in July of 2008, described Fairfax High School senior standout Renardo Sidney with the following words:

“Sidney’s a super talented and skilled post, a triple-threat big man (pass, dribble and shoot) including range to the arc.”

In February of 2009, added:  “He is virtually unstoppable at this level with his size, skill, and overall talent.” They projected him as a “solid NBA 4-man down the road,” without ever having seen him play a second of college basketball.

Schools around the country were drooling at the idea of feeding the big guy the ball down low and punishing opposing teams inside the paint. One of those schools, our very own USC, had what seemed like the best chance at landing the star. In fact, according to an LA Times article in May of 2009, Sidney donned a USC baseball cap at a family and friends gathering, thereby giving away–at least symbolically–his intention to attend the school. His parents even flew a USC banner outside their home. But about two months after the “baseball cap event,” USC rescinded its scholarship offer, puzzling many of its die-hard basketball fans. Sidney was a local product who had undeniable athletic talent and was, by all accounts, anxious to join the Trojans. How could USC pull out now?

Well, according to anonymous sources at USC, the Trojans pulled out because they saw too many red flags surrounding Sidney, and those risks simply weren’t worth the potential rewards. For one, it appeared to many during the recruitment process that the Sidney family was of low means. However, not only did the Sidneys move multiple times throughout Renardo’s high school years, but the houses they occupied were by no means low income. In fact, they were unanimously described as “upscale.” Second, Renardo’s father coached a local basketball club with huge financial backing, but the source of this enormous support was unclear. Finally, one university official is on record as saying Renardo’s father hinted that he felt like he should be compensated should his son attend that school (Cam Newton, anyone?).

Well, apparently the NCAA was suspicious as well, and launched their own investigation after Sidney signed with Mississippi State. The freshman was forced to sit out his entire freshman year and a portion of this season after the NCAA investigation concluded that Sidney accepted improper benefits (his father had funneled money from a non-profit to Renardo and he received various accommodations throughout his recruitment) and lied to the organization during its investigation. But that’s not all.

After his suspension ended, Sidney came back about a week ago and has played two games since. But this past Thursday night, while in attendance during the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Hawaii, Sidney got into a fight with one of his teammates, Bulldogs captain Elgin Bailey. The school has suspended both players indefinitely.

Rewind back to early-to-mid 2009. The USC Trojans were on the brink of locking in its biggest commitment–literally and figuratively–since, arguably, O.J. Mayo. And we all saw how that relationship ended. While at the time many questioned what the administration was doing by abandoning the recruitment of a local star that could lift the program to new heights, we now know that the staff did its homework and saved the basketball program from a major headache. The USC basketball program, after sitting out March Madness last season, is on the road to recovery and is doing so quite quickly–currently 8-5 with two wins over Top 25 teams. Needless to say, the Trojan basketball family is happy that the school exercised great judgment throughout the Renardo Sidney Sweepstakes.

Here’s a short video clip of the fight between Sidney and Bailey:


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