February 22, 2011 8:22:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Rick Stansbury doesn''t care if people criticize his handling of Renardo Sidney.
The Mississippi State men''s basketball coach has endured a turbulent season that has featured two mid-season transfers by players, two players being suspended by the NCAA, and discipline-related suspensions.
Sidney, a sophomore forward, has attracted a lot of that attention. Despite averaging 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, Sidney has come under heavy scrutiny for being out of shape and for fighting with former teammate Elgin Bailey in Hawaii. He has been suspended twice -- Stansbury doesn''t count the suspension for the fight -- and was part of Ravern Johnson''s Twitter saga that led to a ban of the social network site and the suspension for Johnson.
On Monday, Stansbury defended what some national pundits have described as "preferential treatment" for MSU''s most heralded big man since Mario Austin.
"I know what we''re dealing with, and I''m gonna make decisions based on understanding (Sidney''s) situation," Stansbury said. "Easiest thing to do is get rid of him. Hard thing to do is make it work."
Sidney''s situation, at least to those outside the team, is clear. He lost a year of eligibility and sat the first nine games of this season following an eligibility fight with NCAA. He has flashed potential and has put up numbers no other first-year post player has accomplished at MSU.
Sidney''s size -- Stansbury said he was 50 pounds heavier than his prep playing weight when he arrived at MSU -- is his doing. The fact it has taken him more than a year to shake that weight has been a hot topic for fans and critics.
Though Stansbury said some of the criticism of Sidney is warranted, he chalks up his growing pains to being new to responsibility. Stansbury said Sidney couldn''t relate to failure or adversity before this season.
"Is he humbled enough and realistic enough to understand he''s not in great shape and it''s a lot tougher than he expects it to be and getting some of the weight off is more important now?" Stansbury said. "I think there''s no question about that now. I can promise you, he worked harder than he''s ever worked in the fall in his two-a-days practice. Was it good enough? Absolutely not, but in his mind it was twice as much as he''s ever done."
Sidney''s on-court demeanor hasn''t always been ideal, and his effort to lose weight has been questionable.
Stansbury, though, said both issues are in the past and that Sidney has gained more trust from his teammates.
In a 71-58 victory against the University of Mississippi on Saturday, Sidney scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and had a string of transition buckets in the second half that weren''t a part of his game earlier in the season.
MSU point guard Dee Bost said Sidney''s willingness to run the floor late in the game is a positive sign.
"Usually he really don''t run because of his conditioning, but I feel like in practice he''s been pushing himself more," point guard Dee Bost said, "so that kind of helped him to run."
While coaches and teammates are trusting Sidney more, Stansbury doesn''t trust him enough to let him field questions from the media, which he hasn''t done since the team returned from Hawaii in December.
The SEC Network interviewed Sidney after the game against Ole Miss, but he wasn''t made available to local media. Stansbury said the team still needs to "get him some experience" in how to handle the media.
"We want him to be able to talk," Stansbury said. "There ain''t no problem from that standpoint. It''s just because of his situation, what he''s been through and what''s happened to him this year.
"It''s not hiding anything, it''s just how to respond. That''s not easy. Don''t forget, he''s a 21-year-old kid and this is all new for him. His background hasn''t helped prepare him for any of this."
Sidney and MSU will play host at LSU at 8 p.m. Wednesday (CSS).
jbw commented at 2/22/2011 2:24:00 PM:
Stansbury has let his players take control of the team.. Stansbury has trouble coaching these young men and has no leadership.. MSU need a gerat coach, like Mullen, for the talent that come to State.. He has been there too long and Strickland needs to make a change and sooner than lager.. State will never have a great program as long as Stansbury is on the bench.. ps: Get rid of Cohen also.. He will never do well at State.. State should be ashamed not listening to Ron Polk..
jdrobin3 commented at 2/23/2011 11:10:00 AM:
As a neutral observer on MSU athletics, I must say Stansbury is a good coach who has put together some great teams over the years at State. Sure he has made some mistakes along with every other NCAA coach but Mississippi State should keep him. Sidney and players like him are not easy to deal with but once they have been in the program for a couple of years, they can develop into All-Americans. Stansbury will take MSU back to the tournament within the next year or two. And as for those who are advocates of a coaching change, please provide a list of candidates more experienced, qualified and proven than Stansbury who would take the Mississippi State job? Stansbury has been successful over the years and should be given the opportunity to continue that well into the future.
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