On paper, Renardo Sidney looks like a star…The next big thing.  ESPNU has the McDonald’s All-American power forward from Fairfax High School ranked as the #7 player in the country.  A 2007 Sports Illustrated article even predicted Sidney to be the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.  In the last few weeks, this high school phenom hit some roadblocks in his path to becoming an NBA powerhouse.  Recruited heavily by UCLA and USC, the 6’9”, 265 pound forward had verbally committed to accepting a scholarship to play for USC, but towards the end of April, both schools pulled out from recruiting Sidney.  After the two California schools backed out of the race, Sidney signed a letter of intent with Mississippi State, possibly the only other recruiter offering anything at that point.

Anonymous sources at both UCLA and USC told the L.A. Times that they did not want to take the risk of attracting NCAA scrutiny because of sketchy issues with his family and camp.  The family moved several times to upscale homes while Renardo was in high school, despite purportedly having a limited income.  Sonny Vaccaro, a name familiar in the basketball world, admitted to financing the family’s move to the Los Angeles area.  At the time, Sonny was still working for Reebok, but now is no longer with Reebok or in a favorable position with the Sidney family.  Renardo’s AAU team, which happens to be coached by Renardo Sr., also raised some questions.  The team was given some financial backing by Reebok and current Reebok rep Chris Rivers, but the overall financial situation of the team added to the list of concerns.  Perhaps the most troubling issue was the rumor that Renardo Sidney Sr. was expecting some compensation for his son’s services.

While most of the claims against the Sidney family have yet to be substantiated, they’ve caused a lot of problems for the young player.  The Sidneys hired Alabama-based sports attorney Donald Jackson to help them through these troubling times.  No stranger to dealing with athlete controversies, Jackson has denied the existence of any wrong doing or NCAA violation by Renardo or his father.  In fact, he claims that USC and UCLA didn’t stop recruiting Sidney, but that the high school star notified them first of his intent to sign with Mississippi State.  I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Jackson at a Sports Law conference several months ago, and he seemed like a pretty stand up guy.  My personal feelings aside, the veteran attorney has had years of experience in dealing with these sorts of controversies, and is well prepared to give due diligence to Sidney’s problems.  Mississippi State is also being extremely careful in dealing with the Sidney situation.  After the young hoops star committed to attending the university, the school retained sports attorney Mike Glazier who has aided several other schools during NCAA investigations.  Glazier currently leads the Collegiate Sports Practice Group at the Kansas office of law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, LLP.

Renardo will enroll at Mississippi State in July, just a few weeks after graduating high school.  Assuming he doesn’t run into any eligibility problems, this young man could make Mississippi State a contender in the SEC and possibly the NCAA tournament.  Will he be a one-and-done, or allow his skills to develop thoroughly under Coach Rick Stansbury? Either way, UCLA and USC might be missing out on a great opportunity if this controversy turns out to be nothing.  I watched Sidney’s Fairfax High School play on ESPN2 several months back and this kid is dynamite.  In an 86-47 victory over San Diego High School and Jeremy Tyler, Sidney put up 28 points and 10 rebounds.  He’s been compared to players like Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber.  If he plays his cards right he could become an NBA great in the future.