- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Mississippi State pulled off a recruiting coup by signing top 10 senior Renardo Sidney on Thursday.
Sidney's presence should make the Bulldogs a favorite in the SEC West, even if leading scorer Jarvis Varnado stays in the NBA draft.
"We've got the papers," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "His mother and father are from here, his grandparents are from here, it's a natural fit."
Sidney, the No. 7 player in the Class of 2009 as ranked by ESPN's Scouts, Inc., was one of two in the top 10 who had not signed. A 6-foot-9 forward from Jackson, Miss., Sideny spent the past two seasons at Fairfax High in Los Angeles. He originally committed to USC, but the school decided to stop recruiting him last week.
Stansbury said he didn't know why USC fell through. He said Sidney called Mississippi State last week and told them that he had a change of heart and wanted to come home. Stansbury said the Bulldogs had recruited Sidney last fall.
The other remaining unsigned top 10 player is No. 5 John Wall, a point guard from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C.
If Varnado returns, the Bulldogs could arguably have the top frontline in the SEC with Sidney and Kodi Augustus as the primary members in the rotation. Kentucky is waiting to see if Patrick Patterson withdraws from the NBA draft. A frontline of Patterson, newcomers DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton would rival the Bulldogs' trio.
Mississippi State finished 23-13 and 9-7 in the SEC last season. The Bulldogs won the SEC tournament by beating Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee on successive days. They lost to Washington in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Top perimeter player and second-leading scorer Barry Stewart also returns to Mississippi State.
"We felt that with everybody back from last year's championship team we would be good next year," Stansbury said.
Stansbury said he remains confident Varnado will return to Starkville for his senior season. Varnado blocked 170 shots last season.
Still, getting a player of Sidney's potential impact this late into the spring is unusual.
"Most of the top guys are over in the fall," Stansbury said of the recruitment. "There was a lot of stuff going on with whether he would go to college, speculation if he would go overseas. We feel blessed that whatever the situation was at USC, there was a change and we're fortunate he fell back into our lap."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.