The future king
Renardo Sidney could be NBA No. 1 draft pick in 2010
Posted: Thursday August 30, 2007 10:28AM; Updated: Thursday August 30, 2007 11:50AM
NEW YORK -- They had never conversed prior to the night of the 2007 NBA Draft, but shortly after becoming the No. 1 pick, Greg Oden was connected via cell phone with a 17-year-old in Lakewood, Calif., named Renardo Sidney. "[Oden] just told me to keep working hard and listen to my parents," Sidney said. "Then he had to go do some interviews."
Sidney was not a random teen selected to receive an inspirational message from a new millionaire. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound high-schooler received the call because he's expected, by everyone from pundits to shoe merchants to unscrupulous businessmen, to follow in Oden's footsteps and be No. 1 on the 2010 draft board.
The prep junior-to-be, who was in New York last week for the Elite 24 Hoops Classic, is remarkably polite, but also savvy enough in the ways of the basketball world to deflect a question on how the chat with Oden was arranged. "I got the phone from my father," he says cautiously, then stares across a restaurant table in a midtown Sheraton toward his 38-year-old dad, Renardo Sr. The elder finishes the sentence -- and discussion of the topic -- by stating, matter-of-factly, "I talk to [Oden] from time to time."
In the same way Oden was pegged as a future star at a young age, Sidney has been a well-known name in recruiting circles for years. Former ABCD Camp director Sonny Vaccaro, whose event was the stage for Oden's national coming-out party in '03, invited Sidney to the camp when he was just a 15-year-old eighth-grader in '05. Vaccaro was at Madison Square Garden to see Oden get drafted this June, and although he didn't arrange the call between the two, remarks that, "It was a very wise move by someone, don't you think?"
Intrigue surrounds Sidney because he's a big man with stunning, guard-like skills; he's susceptible to lapses in effort but also more versatile than the NBA player to whom some recruitniks have him compared, Chris Webber. Of Sidney's potential, Vaccaro says, "Should he be the No. 1 pick [in 2010]? Physically it would be without question. The key is what happens, mentally and with everything else over the next two to three years."
When he's forced to pick a college in 2009, Sidney says it'll likely be between Oden's Buckeyes ("I like how they play," he says), Texas, Florida, USC, UCLA, Kentucky, UAB and Alabama. Mark Gottfried of the Tide has the distinction of being the coach who sent Sidney his first recruiting letter ... when he was in seventh grade. Columnists and coaches alike often bemoan the excessive attention heaped on teen phenoms, deeming it both premature and potentially damaging, but the Sidney camp is well aware of the value of this exposure. There were two reasons that Renardo Sr. moved his family from Jackson, Miss., to Lakewood, Calif., in '06: Better basketball, and "the same thing O.J. [Mayo] said [about USC] -- more marketing." "Mississippi is a small pond," says Renardo Sr. "I love it as my home, but you have to go to a bigger market to get [Renardo's] name out."