If any player needs the NCAA tournament as a proving ground, it is Sidney.The junior said it is “now-or-never” time to show he’s more than a cautionary tale. But for every Derrick Rose or Kevin Love — players who successfully used summer league basketball as a springboard — there is a Renardo Sidney, who said his mom had to talk him out of quitting basketball for good on his 22nd birthday.
Sidney this week emerged from a New Orleans Arena locker room to happily meet The Post reporter who first profiled him six years ago, when his family was in the process of moving to Los Angeles because his father felt his son had outgrown Jackson, Miss. At the time, Sidney was a sinewy guard confident that he would be in the NBA by 2010. Now he’s a self-admitted work-in-progress 22-year-old with a better sense of what went wrong.
“I never got to be a teenager,” Sidney said. “I am not trying to say it was bad hype, because I loved it. As a kid, that is what you want. I think it was just too much for a 13-, 14- year-old kid. When I went to LA, I thought I was already the king.”
Even before Sidney moved to Los Angeles or played one high school game, agents or shoe company officials regularly filled up the voicemail on his father’s two cellphones. Reebok had hired Renardo Sidney Sr. for a $20,000 consulting job so he would make sure his son attended the company’s basketball events. One power broker looking to impress Sidney put him on the phone with a man purported to be Kobe Bryant.
That was nothing compared with what Sidney encountered in Los Angeles, where he gave autographs while walking the halls in high school, “got free stuff,” attended Los Angeles Lakers games and felt like a “movie star.”
“It happened so fast, I was like, ‘Damn, I don’t know who to trust,’ ” Sidney said. “The only people I could trust was my mom and dad. Sometimes I trusted the wrong people. I tried to go over my dad’s head a couple times and handle stuff on my own.”
When asked what life lessons he took away from his Los Angeles experience, Sidney said: “If I would have stayed in Mississippi, I would not be here talking to you again now. I’d be in the [NBA]. I’d be real hungry. When I got to California, everything was laid out for me.”
When he enrolled at Mississippi State, Sidney said, he had to “come back down from the sky.” He did in a hurry. After following his dad’s strict rules for years — including no dating — he was on his own.