Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Katz [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sidney to Mississippi State?


The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Renardo Sidney earned a qualifying SAT score.

But he won't be playing at USC. A source close to the program confirmed that the Trojans are officially no longer recruiting Sidney, who had verbally committed to USC. The decision, according to the source, came from within the administration. UCLA also backed off in its recruitment of the 6-foot-9 power forward out of Fairfax High (Calif.) in a similar fashion, even though there was a strong chance the Bruins were going to land Sidney prior to him committing to USC.

A possible destination for Sidney, ranked No. 7 by ESPN's Scouts Inc., could be Mississippi State. Sidney is originally from Jackson, Miss., and moved to Los Angeles in 2007. According to a source, he was visiting friends and family in the Starkville area over the weekend. A source close to the Mississippi State program said that Sidney would be a good fit with the Bulldogs because of the proximity to home and the potential that he could play alongside Jarvis Varnado if the latter withdraws from the NBA draft. A Varnado-Sidney combination would give the Bulldogs the most feared frontcourt in the SEC.

• USC lost two more players to the NBA draft by the Sunday night deadline, according to a USC source. Junior Taj Gibson did declare, but without an agent, and senior Marcus Johnson also declared for the draft.

Johnson, a transfer from Connecticut, missed eight games in the second semester after he hurt his shoulder on a dunk in a win over Cal. He is still waiting to see if he can earn back a fifth year of eligibility. If he can't, then he would be in the draft anyway as a senior whose eligibility is over. But while his case is pending, Johnson wanted to put his name in the draft to keep his options open. Johnson averaged 3.1 points a game.

Gibson's decision was expected since he was a 23-year old junior. Gibson, the team's second-leading scorer at 14.3 points a game, will be an interesting test case. He's not a lock for the first round but may feel he needs to go because of his age. The Trojans already lost junior guard Daniel Hackett and freshman guard DeMar DeRozan to the draft. Both were scheduled to sign with agents. The Trojans will be looking at a rebuilding situation with the team relying heavily on the return of senior guard Dwight Lewis (14.4 ppg) and big men Alex Stepheson, who transferred from North Carolina, and Nikola Vucevic, a returning reserve player.

The Trojans also bring back role-playing forwards Leonard Washington and Marcus Simmons, who was a defensive stopper in the final weeks of the season. The Trojans will likely start freshman Lamont Jones at the point in place of Hackett and use freshman forward Noel Johnson quite a bit if Gibson doesn't return. If he does, then the Trojans would actually have three experienced players in Gibson, Lewis and Stepheson, who contributed to the Tar Heels' 2008 Final Four team, in the starting lineup.

• Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury didn't try to hold back Varnado from declaring for the draft. But the hope is that Varnado will return for another season to become the NCAA's all-time shot block leader as well as put on some more bulk. He wasn't given a consensus first-round report by the NBA's advisory committee. If Varnado comes back and Sidney joins the squad, with the return of Barry Stewart on the perimeter, the Bulldogs have a shot to be a top-15 squad.

• DePaul's offseason has been as disruptive as the season it endured. The Blue Demons saw leading scorers Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker declare for the NBA draft and then the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that associate head coach Gary DeCesare and assistant Ramon Williams left the program. Assistant Scott Wainwright, son of the head coach, Jerry Wainwright, left his job in March. The Blue Demons didn't win a game in the Big East last season.

• Wednesday will be one of the most historic days in Saint Joseph's basketball history. Why? The Hawks are moving into a new basketball complex. That may seem like old news in the modern world of big-time college athletics, but the Hawks have been in a time warp. Head coach Phil Martelli's office had no windows and was a tight, messy square of a room under the bleachers for the past 15 years. His assistants shared desks in the next room.

"I've probably spent 40,000 hours in this office, with a ceiling that in some parts, if you're taller than 6-2, you'd smack your head," Martelli said as he was boxing up his office. "Now I'm going to have a conference room next to my office that is twice the size of this office. My office is going to have windows. Windows! My assistants will have their own office."

Martelli said the Hawks are finally getting "stuff" that everyone else has in the business of big-time athletics. The new basketball center will be named after legendary coach and ESPN radio NBA analyst Jack Ramsay, a former Hawks coach. The Hawks played last season at the Palestra during the construction on campus. The locker room will be named after former Hawk and current Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who made a "sizable donation," to the program, according to Martelli. The facility will have the usual amenities like a flat-screen theater, academic center and spacious meeting rooms. Martelli said this project probably wouldn't have happened had the Hawks not reached the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed in 2004 with Nelson at the helm.

• New Xavier coach Chris Mack did pull off his first major coaching move by recruiting former Musketeer Pat Kelsey off the Wake Forest staff to be his top assistant. Kelsey understands the business and is a likely future head coach with his passion for the game, demeanor and eye for talent.

• The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series announced its matchups for next season. This series has always been a bit odd to follow since it's spread out over three weeks, includes already-scheduled games between the two leagues and must have a few Pac-10 teams playing twice because the Big 12 has two fewer members.

Cal is the favorite for the Pac-10 title. The Bears are already playing at Big 12 favorite Kansas in the regular season. But to give this event credibility the Pac-10's best team still should be playing one of the Big 12's top teams, not one of the worst (Iowa State). The Pac-10 said the matchups were made a year ago, but the conferences could easily make a change if it was done in concert and if their television partners pressured them to do so. Meanwhile, instead of Cal-Texas, the Bears will play host to Iowa State. Texas is hosting USC, which would have sounded like a home run matchup before the Trojans lost DeRozan, Hackett and Gibson to the NBA draft.

Kansas is playing at UCLA in the marquee matchup, but in December the rebuilding Bruins may not be a match for the top-rated Jayhawks. Washington is in the event twice. One of the games has the potential to be a top-25 game between Texas A&M and the Huskies on Dec. 22. The other won't do much for the Huskies as they go to Texas Tech on Dec. 3. The full slate is as follows: Nov. 29 -- Nebraska at USC; Dec. 3 -- Washington at Texas Tech, USC at Texas, Baylor at Arizona State; Dec. 4 -- Colorado at Oregon State; Dec. 5 -- Oregon at Missouri, Iowa State at Cal, Washington State at Kansas State; Dec. 6 -- Kansas at UCLA, Arizona at Oklahoma; Dec. 16 -- Oklahoma State at Stanford; Dec. 22 -- Texas A&M at Washington.

• Cal is also in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic as one of the four hosts with North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse.

• Nearly a year after former Tennessee guard Chris Lofton acknowledged publicly that he had played the latter part of his career after battling testicular cancer, Lofton scored 61 points in a Turkish League playoff game for Mersin last Saturday. It was the most points in a Turkish League game in 20 years. Lofton also had six steals with four assists in 38 minutes. Lofton, known as a 3-point threat every time he touched the ball for the Vols, made 17 of 22 3s in the game.