November 5, 2010 3:23:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- When Mississippi State''s men''s basketball team faces exhibition opponent Lindsey Wilson on Saturday, all eyes will be on the two players who won''t be in uniform when the games start to count.
Sophomore forward Renardo Sidney and junior point guard Dee Bost, both serving separate NCAA suspensions, enter Saturday''s game with different statuses.
Sidney is eligible to play, while Bost, who is currently academically ineligible, is out until January.
Still, MSU coaches will get their first glimpse of how Sidney and a cast of newcomers fit into the team against competition.
Saturday''s game against NAIA team Lindsey Wilson is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game is the first of two exhibitions, the second slated against Belhaven on Dec. 15 -- three days before Sidney''s suspension is lifted.
Exhibition games do not count toward either player''s suspension total. Bost, assuming he regains academic eligibility, could play against Belhaven.
Last season, Sidney was idle through all of MSU''s games, including exhibitions, as the NCAA investigated his amateur status.
In the team''s 52-minute open scrimmage last Saturday, Sidney showed the rust and frustration expected of a player who is admittedly out of shape after not playing for more than a year.
Just how much Sidney plays Saturday has yet to be determined by head coach Rick Stansbury, who rubbished the notion of Sidney''s playing time leading Saturday''s game day plans.
"We''ll figure it out," Stansbury said. "My main objective going into the exhibition is not worrying about Sidney, I can promise you. We''ll see where it is.
"We''ve got nine other games to play before we can get him. Will he play Saturday? We haven''t talked about it, but I''m not saying no on it. We''ll probably play him somewhere along the way."
While Sidney appeared sluggish in last week''s scrimmage, Bost showed how much he''ll be missed while serving his suspension and working to regain his academic eligibility.
Bost scored 40 points and shot more than 50 percent from behind the 3-point line, featuring at point guard and shooting guard as Stansbury worked with different back court combinations.
Stansbury knows what he has in Bost, who averaged 13 points and 5.2 assists per game last season. Conversely, Stansbury needs to get a better idea of how newcomers Brian Bryant and Jalen Steele mesh with the rest of the cast.
"There''ll be a lot of rotating going on every game seeing what mixes and matches until we can figure out what functions the best," Stansbury said. "We got to find other ways in the meantime to make it work without (Bost) for those 15 or 14 games, whatever it is. We''ll continue to mix and match. And I ain''t worried about who starts. I don''t even start my best team. We''ll just try to keep playing these games and figure it out."
Bost will be idle for the first time since entering the college ranks. The junior has started since the beginning of his freshman season.
"It''s already hard," Bost said. "I was thinking about it last night. It''s going to be a mentally challenging thing I gotta do. Just got to stay positive and encouraging my teammates."
The most certain element of Mississippi State''s team is senior swing man Ravern Johnson, who was second on the team and first in 3-point field goal percentage last season. However, his game lacked power drives to the basket, and Stansbury challenged the senior to become a complete player. Part of that challenge includes leading an MSU squad that''s had offseason defections in each of the previous three seasons.
"I know my role''s got to be bigger than it''s been," Johnson said. "More leadership and more everything. Hopefully, this team will trust me so I can be a leader on the team.
"We''ve got a pretty good team. I know I went through a lot, playing with Jamont (Gordon), Charles (Rhodes), Barry (Stewart) and Jarvis (Varnado). Now those guys are gone, but this still ranks at the top of my list as far as talent level."
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