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MSU men preparing for SEC opener

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Rick Stansbury''s first hometown press conference in more than three weeks had a repeated theme: Move on.  

 

What was originally planned as a holiday vacation where Mississippi State''s men''s basketball team would debut sophomore Renardo Sidney ended with an embarrassing, national headline-grabbing fight between the former McDonald''s High School All-American and then-teammate Elgin Bailey. 

 

The fight between Sidney and Bailey in Hawaii was the tipping point to a disastrous cross-country run that resulted in four losses in five games.  

 

Sidney was suspended twice, the second when he and Bailey were sent home from the Diamond Head Classic on indefinite suspension.  

 

Both players were reinstated Monday before Bailey, hailed by Stansbury as the team''s emotional leader and veteran presence in the locker room, opted to transfer.  

 

Four days before opening Southeastern Conference play against the University of Alabama at 3 p.m. Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum, Stansbury addressed his team''s roster and refused to talk about the decision to retain Sidney and why Bailey decided to leave.  

 

MSU''s inexperienced post play was an issue before Bailey left the team, so losing the junior -- however far along he was from knee surgery -- will affect the team in SEC play.  

 

National columnists scrutinized Stansbury''s decision to retain Sidney, especially considering the resources the school invested in getting him eligible with the NCAA.  

 

Stansbury, however, refused to entertain notions his program earned a negative public perception because of how it handled the situation. 

 

"You don''t like for anytime to have an incident like we had," Stansbury said. "That''s difficult enough in itself. That''s about all I''m gonna say about that situation. We''re gonna move on. I don''t worry about things I can''t control." 

 

Bailey has yet to comment on his decision to transfer. He wasn''t made available to the media Wednesday. 

 

The meltdown of the relationship between Bailey and Sidney caught teammates off guard. Bailey and Sidney were roommates and shared a mentor-little brother connection.  

 

"I feel like it kind of came out of nowhere," senior guard Riley Benock said. "There''s times during the year when you have arguments with teammates and stuff like that. That''s just part of competition, but for it to escalate to the level it did it kind of surprised everybody.  

 

"Hopefully, all that''s behind us. That''s how we''re approaching it." 

 

How the Bulldogs (8-6) survive in the post in league play will hinge on Sidney and reserve sophomore Wendell Lewis. 

 

Lewis has spent time playing power forward and center. He played sparingly last season in the SEC part of the schedule.  

 

Sidney has just two college games under his belt. Had everything gone according to plan, Sidney would have played five games and been in much better shape to start league play.  

 

"(Lewis) is going to have to play meaningful minutes because it''s very obvious Sid, just from conditioning and all that, is not going to be able to play the amount of minutes you wish he could play," Stansbury said. "There''s going to be a bunch of minutes there for somebody to get, whether it''s Wendell, or it''s Kodi (Augustus), or it''s John (Riek)." 

 

 

 

 

 

Bost anxious for return 

 

The silver lining to the fallout to MSU''s two-week tournament calamity is the return of point guard Dee Bost. 

 

MSU''s other previously suspended player sat the fall semester after being declared academically ineligible and serving a nine-game, NCAA mandated suspension for missing the deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft. 

 

On Saturday, Bost will make his regular-season debut against Alabama.  

 

The timing couldn''t have been better, as MSU enters the league opener with losses in four in its past five games. 

 

MSU has started junior college transfer Brian Bryant and sophomore Twany Beckham, who was granted transfer papers Wednesday, at point guard this season. 

 

The Bulldogs'' tempo on offense hasn''t been the same without Bost, as Stansbury often lamented his backcourt''s inability to create in the paint. 

 

"Just having him on your floor makes your team better," Stansbury said. "He makes all those around him better. He gives everybody around him a little ''umph.'' He gives everybody around him a little more confidence. He gets easier baskets for everybody." 

 

Being excluded from team road trips meant time away from teammates and lost practice hours, which were reduced during team-oriented sessions.  

 

Bost, a Coaches Preseason All-SEC first-team selection, said those aspects were the hardest to accept while he was suspended. 

 

"I''m not nervous. I''m just ready to play and get first game over with," Bost said.  

 

Stansbury admitted the lack of vocal leadership with Bost sidelined was a concern. He hopes Bost''s impact on team morale is as great as his impact on the floor. 

 

"There wasn''t a whole lot of verbal leadership on the court from a standpoint of somebody who could really talk and get somebody going," Stansbury said. "I think Riley has stepped that up. I thinking Kodi''s playing hard. But just from somebody being able to grab somebody, we didn''t have a lot of that out there. Dee gives credibility to all of that on the team, for sure." 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravern''s dip in production 

 

MSU hopes the return of Bost will bring good fortunate for struggling scorer Ravern Johnson.  

 

The Bulldogs'' leading scorer at 20.1 points per game is coming off a five-game slump that saw him hit just 23 of 73 shots from the floor. 

 

Stansbury said Johnson got sick during the trip and missed three days of practice prior to their tournament opener in Hawaii. 

 

"He played like he practiced," Stansbury said. "He didn''t get much done. Being back home should help all that." 

 

Bost, who averaged more than 13 points and five assists per game last season, should help take the scoring load off Johnson.  

 

 

 

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