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Surprise! Renardo Sidney commits to USC

February 22, 2009 | 10:43 pm

Six-foot-11 high school basketball phenom Renardo Sidney did a good job keeping his college decision under wraps.

In fact, it was wrapped so well it took him about 2 1/2 minutes to open a box containing a baseball cap featuring the logo of his choice -- the USC Trojans.

The packaging was his mom's idea, an endearing touch that paired well with a heartfelt message from Sidney to his Fairfax High teammates and a speech from a doting Godmother who admonished the media to be respectful of her little, er, big boy.

"Inside that body -- that talent that God has given these kids -- is a human being," said the Godmother in front of the crowd gathered in Fairfax's gym. "So try to get your facts right."

It was a real All-American scene -- warm, loving, hyped up, and with a little suspicion and gossip swirling in the air.

Sidney actually is an All-American, making it three straight seasons Tim Floyd has lured one to play for USC.

He almost wound up in Westwood, as multiple sources indicated that Sidney was leaning toward UCLA on Monday. That fell through on Wednesday -- Sidney said that even he wasn't sure exactly what happened -- and by Thursday he had made up his mind to play for the Trojans.

In a news conference after the announcement, the 19-year-old told reporters that his decision was a nail-biter. Mississippi State, Virginia and Memphis had been in the mix. Sidney never considered playing in Europe, like his friend Brandon Jennings, and insisted that he would have gone to college even if the NBA didn't require players to wait a year after high school before entering the draft.

Sidney said a major part of his decision was based on a belief that USC's coaches would prepare him for the NBA, as well as the built-in comfort of playing just a few miles from his high school. "I think Tim Floyd is a good coach," said Sidney. "He's been coaching on every level -- high school, college and pro. I have ex-teammates that go there, and I'm just real excited to go back to playing with them."

Sidney is friends with current Trojans forward Taj Gibson and is already planning on being roommates with Solomon Hill, a teammate at Fairfax and fellow USC commit.

None of this can become official until April 8, which is the first day the NCAA will allow him to sign paperwork with the school. Between now and then, he will need to earn a qualifying score on the SAT, which he intends to take in March.

If and when Sidney takes the court for USC, he's expected to make an immediate impact -- much like O.J. Mayo. The two had spoken about Sidney's decision, with Mayo giving a solid plug for Floyd.

And like Mayo, questions will swirl around Sidney's off-court relationships. He was flanked during the entire conference by Chris Rivers, a family friend who works for Reebok. "I'm here on Chris Rivers time," he insisted, adding that USC isn't a Reebok school.

The Sidneys are a Reebok family, though. Renardo Sr. has been employed there for the last three years.

-- Adam Rose