Enigmatic Bigmen: Renardo Sidney & Jeremy Tyler
By Alex Kaftan
On Friday, January 23rd, San Diego High played Fairfax. San Diego features Jeremy Tyler, one of the best juniors in the country who's already a Louisville commit, while Fairfax has the enigmatic Renardo Sidney, an uncommitted senior. The game was a blowout early on, as San Diego had a subpar and disorganized supporting cast, while Fairfax was well-coached, had a solid rotation and, in addition to Sidney, had Solomon Hill, a valuable 6'6" combo forward who'll play at Southern California next season. Tyler finished the game with 29 points and eight rebounds, while Sidney had 28 points and eleven boards. The final score was 86-47 for Fairfax. It should be noted that these two teams played last season, and, while the result was yet another blowout win for Fairfax, Tyler had scored zero points to Sidney's 32.
Renardo Sidney, 6'10 270
As of now, Sidney's about 6'10" 270. He looked much heavier than the 250 that the announcers listed him at, sporting about thirty pounds of sheddable weight. His pudgy physique stunts his leaping ability, hampers his quickness, slows his straight-line speed, and makes his endurance laughable. Overweight athletes have always been a pet peeve of mine and are indicative of a myriad of red-flags. I have no idea how a star athlete can let his weight fluctuate, especially one with the long and short term incentives that Sidney has. It tends to show a lack of maturity, an absence of work-ethic, and oftentimes a deficiency in intelligence. While as skilled as high school posts get, Sidney doesn't seem to possess elite leaping ability, quickness, or speed, and his extra weight makes this aspect of his game even more insufficient.
Despite this, Sidney does have many promising characteristics. If he ever got into shape, he would be a very good, not great run-jump athlete. Even at his weight, his quickness off the ground was good. His leaping ability overall wasn't adequate, but the bounce in the first foot or so of his jump was impressive. He used this ability in grabbing rebounds and dunking a few times. Even though he is overweight, he still showed a sneaky agility, much like or a late 90's Antoine Walker, particularly on a number of spin-moves, where he used his fantastic body control to finish even after contact, or in taking his man off the dribble. He is exceptionally strong for a high schooler, but would benefit greatly by turning those lipids into protein as he looks to play against men, not boys. Sidney owns broad shoulders, and it appears like he can lose thirty pounds of fat while gaining that back in muscle without losing much quickness.
OFFENSE--Sidney's skill-level on offense is absolutely jaw-dropping. The single most impressive play of the game was watching Sidney deftly take the ball coast-to-coast as a guard and finish around Tyler with a gorgeous spin move. Similarly, on a fast-break, Sidney drew a San Diego player to him and dished a beautiful no-look pass to a teammate. He exibited many characteristics of a point-forward, except he is even more unique because of his massive size. His handle with both hands is low to the ground and near his body, which enables him to drive through traffic. His court vision, which is that of a point guard's, and his legitimate 6'10" height would give a coach the opportunity to run the offense through Sidney in the high-post. His post-moves are exceptionally advanced for a high schooler. His repertoire--spin-moves, pump fakes, jabs--is reminiscent of Zach Randolph.
Sidney's uncanny body control and terrific hand-eye coordination--he has some of the best hands I've ever seen in a big--helped him greatly against the strong Tyler, especially after contact. He effortlessly finished with a vast array of moves, whether baby-hooks, one handed shots falling away, short jumpers. His versatility both in the post and in finishing reminded me most of Tim Duncan, who's another player that lacks topshelf run-jump athleticism. He also passed crisply from the post to his teammates, from the perimeter to the post, and when he swung the ball around the 3-point line.
Although Sidney's offensive talent is undeniable, he did show some red-flags. He attempted about four or five threes, and while he has hit them in the past, his post offense was so effective that he should have stayed on the low block, working on Tyler to get him into foul trouble. His ability to combat strong double teams is not known after this game. While Sidney was defended by a player of roughly equivalent size and strength, San Diego's next tallest player was at best 6'2". To maximize his abilities in college and the pros, he'll have to recognize what's working for him quicker, and how to play against two tall and athletic pivots at once.
DEFENSE--This area is where Sidney's physical and psychological shortcomings are rather evident. If he got into optimal shape and had a solid head on his shoulders, he would shine on defense as well. His great timing and reflexes suggest that he could become a master rebounder and great shotblocker, despite his lack of elite leaping ability. His combination of having both a large body and quickness would let him effectively cover both power forwards and centers, as he would have the strength and size to check fives, and the agility to guard fours.
As he is now from a physical standpoint, Sidney would have trouble defending most power forwards and some centers. His brute force is excellent in high school, but he desperately needs to change his eating and exercise habits or else he'll be bumped in the post and burnt on the perimeter. He over-relies on his height and strength, not bodying his man up, not looking very intense, and not hustling back on defense. His fitness hampered his effort as well. Defensive effort suffers the most once the legs start feeling heavy. If he doesn't dedicate himself to conditioning, the best offensive posts in three or four years--Dwight Howard, Amaré Stoudemire, , Chris Bosh, ect--will eat him alive.
INTANGIBLE--Saint Augustine sums up Sidney's intangibles better than I can--"By servitude to passion, habit is formed, and habit to which there is no (little) resistance becomes necessity." Right now, Sidney's habits are poor as his body is out of shape. If he continues down this path, he will be awfully disappointed in his basketball career. There's a reason for which Derrick Caracter dominated Oden early on in high school, but Caracter's weak will led to his rapid downfall.
I have compared him to Tim Duncan, who not only has been one of the best players in the past eleven seasons, but is also one of the brightest, most articulate, and hardest working players in the game. While it's clear he has Duncan-like talent, Sidney will never match it. He desperately needs to undergo a metanoia, or else his limitless potential will go to waste. It's in this area, much like in Tyler's case, Sidney appeared and has appeared most deficient. Other hazardous signs include the fact that he turned nineteen in December, so he's a full year older than most people in his grade. His age and his imposing physically makes me wonder if he has peaked a little earlier than most.
Jeremy Tyler, 6'10" 245 lbs.
These features were used to convert five or six thunderous dunks--many of which were in traffic--with Amare Stoudemire-like power and speed, albeit with less fluidity. His strength also allowed him to convert a few layups with defenders intentionally hacking his arms. The announcers claimed that he is 6'11" and 245 pounds with a 7'5" wingspan. I can buy the 7'5" wingspan and the 245 pounds, but the height appeared to be inflated by an inch. He seemed a little shorter than Sidney, who's listed at 6'10", although this could be due to Tyler's hunched back.
Regardless, I'd estimate him to be no shorter than 6'9", and possibly 6'10". Ignoring this small discrepency of height, Tyler's physical profile is as of now by far the most promising aspect of his game. His frame seems capable of adding twenty pounds without losing his outstanding athleticism. If he'll fill out to be 6'10" 260, Tyler would have the length, strength, and athleticism to play center in the NBA. That may even be his best bet, since skill-wise he seemed very lacking.
OFFENSE--For all his physical prowess, Tyler lacks offensive skill. Despite his quick feet, he didn't know how to use them, as his post moves were mechanical and predictable. He would often get the ball on the low block and not know how to operate an initial move, much less an essential counter-move that so often dictate success in the NBA. He over-relied on his strength and athleticism, and did not show much touch around the basket, exhibiting poor hands that had a hard time grabbing the ball from a perimeter-to-post feed. He finished a few plays weakly, although to his credit he usually went up for rim-rattling jams when he could, even taking off five feet from the rim.
Tyler's one "move" in this game that he showed a modest mastery of is a pump fake. Once the defenders were off the ground, he used his strength to bump them and finish. His effort on the offensive glass could've improved, as he didn't fight boxouts, and didn't seem to know when to retreat back on defense and when to go after loose balls. In the Fairfax game, Tyler would try to take Sidney one-on-one off the dribble, sometimes from twelve to fifteen feet away, others at the top of the three-point arc. This could be a most effective weapon, since very few post players have Tyler's footspeed, strength, and leaping ability, but his ball-handling was far too high and far away from his body. He got away with that more than he should have during this game, but defenders in college and especially the pros will pick him clean.
Tyler tried unsuccessfully a few times a Tim Duncan-esque bankshot, but his low shooting form negated his height and long arms. He also bricked about six threes, many of which were early in the game, before Fairfax had laid down the hammer. These attempts from long-range, more than anything, showed his lack of basketball IQ and selfishness. This to me reeked of him taking this game to be "Jeremy versus Renardo", not San Diego versus Fairfax. In this game, he missed his first five free-throws, and showed a good form, but terrible touch from the free-throw line.
All is not lost however. When compelled, he showed at least average passing ability, and to be fair to Tyler, his teammates were a bit lacking. At Louisville, he'll be able to play with excellent players under a top coach, so hopefully his selfishness will be tempered. He does have the makings of a good offensive pivot, especially if he can gain some fluidity to his post-moves and tighten that handle to maximize his athleticism. Right now, however, he is all about athleticism, strength, and height. To have success in the NBA, that must change.
When guarding Sidney on the perimeter, Tyler's defensive stance was far too high and he was flat-footed, which enabled Sidney to drive past him despite being less quick and fast, and he didn't stick his butt into players to box out. His lack of effort on the defensive glass was most evident on one possession late in the game, when Fairfax grabbed three of four consecutive offensive rebounds in Tyler's area. Most frustrating for a scout, Sidney boarded none of these, which means that players that were at least four inches shorter and far less talented outhustled Tyler to the ball. This could be attributed to being winded (which means that he must improve his physical shape, since high school games are only thirty two minutes), but the lack of effort was nonetheless alarming. On a team severely lacking in height, the very fact that he only got eight rebounds shows his unwillingness to board.
He also is a bit foul-prone, as he fouled out with about two minutes remaining in the game, although I counted at least three other times that he hacked egregiously and the whistle was not blown. When defending Sidney in the post, he did not deny him the ball, nor did he stick his leg into Sidney's thigh to make it harder to maneuver, rather he let the amazingly skilled Sidney catch and move. He was reactive on defense, not proactive. Elite defenders are not always the most physically imposing, they can anticipate moves the best.
Despite this, he did exert a good effort when guarding his Los Angeles rival, both close and away from the basket, although this could be due to the feud-like nature of the game. It's pretty clear though, that Tyler has lacked coaching on the defensive end (on the offensive end as well). He has the strength, athleticism, and wingspan to at least become adequate in this department, if not very good, despite his inability to time. This will largely depend on how he gets coached in the future. Regardless, this one game is not enough to judge his defensive instincts, although they do not seem all that overwhelming.
INTANGIBLES--Here is where Tyler suffers a great deal. He was amped to go up against Sidney, and went at him from the beginning. He took bad shots, especially from deep, froze out his teammates with his drives to the basket, didn't rebound as he should've, expected super-star calls from the refs, and, when they did not come, he threw up his hands in disgust. On the other hand, his statistical output was so much greater than last years that it would suggest that he improved (I did not watch the game last year to give a skill-set analysis ). Furthermore, from reading reports on last year's game, it seems that Tyler's outrageous antics, to refs and teammates, have subsided a bit. This gives me hope that Tyler will continue to mature under the watchful eyes of Father Time.
CONCLUSION--While any conclusions deduced from one night of basketball must be taken with a grain of salt, this game, coupled with the known history of these two players, leads me to draw some conclusions. Sidney, with his size, promising strength and athleticism, and outstanding skill-set has a higher ceiling potential. Tyler, who has less red flags, has improved rapidly, and almost has an NBA-ready body at age seventeen, has the higher floor potential. Both players, despite their prep rankings, are far from certain to even make the NBA. Want proof? Hardly anyone in Derrick Caracter's junior season would've predicted that he would flame out as quickly as he has. There is a reason for which Caracter dominated Greg Oden up until the summer before their junior years of high school, as well as players that are currently far superior, such as the Lopez twins and Brandan Wright. Part of it was the physical advantage that he enjoyed early in his career wore off, but it mostly had to do with his lack of work-ethic. He became prone to destructive decisions, and his will to improve became irrevocably broken. It would be a pity if that would befall Jeremy Tyler and/or Renardo Sidney.
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