The waiting ended this weekend for some of the most touted prospects in college basketball.
Some 1,400 miles away in the Bahamas, big man Renardo Sidney – ranked No. 16 in the Class of 2009 – finally returned to the court for Mississippi State after sitting out a full season plus most of the first two months this campaign.
Both players were put on the shelf by the NCAA for accepting impermissible benefits before setting foot on a college campus. Now their focus can begin, in earnest, on helping their teams get to the NCAA tournament.
Did one of these delayed standouts catch our analysts' attention? Perhaps another player who had been on pause?
This week's question: Which newcomer appeared most impactful in his first outing in the college ranks?
GERRY AHERN'S RESPONSE
From the jump, Kansas' Josh Selby showed he was ready for his closeup, and to help the Jayhawks reach their utmost potential. Selby knocked down his first two 3-pointers and, in essence, won the game on another as KU held off pesky USC 70-68 for its 65th consecutive home victory. With the game on the line, Selby (21 points) had the ball in his hands, responding with a clutch trey with 26 seconds left to give the Jayhawks a lead they would not relinquish. He made 5-of-8 shots from beyond the arc. What made his performance even more striking was all the local and national attention heaped upon him beforehand. Students out of school for semester break lined up for hours waiting for a glimpse of the prodigy. ESPN's cameras were trained on him throughout the day. Coach Bill Self called the scrutiny unfair. Selby didn't flinch and adds another dimension to a team that already impressed as the best in the Big 12. Should he show the kind of quickness he's been known for pre-college, Rock, Chalk, look out. Renardo Sidney, far away from the media glare, had 12 points and three rebounds over 25 minutes in Mississippi State's 88-57 loss to Virginia Tech. It was a solid effort, but not the breakout many hoped for from the one-time, top-rated frontcourt force. Conditioning continues to be an issue for the 6-foot-10, 270 pounder. Perhaps playing in games rather than just practicing will help kick-start his career.
JASON KING'S RESPONSE
Josh Selby couldn't have performed much better in his Kansas debut, but a newcomer on the opposing team wasn't all that bad, either. USC combo guard Jio Fontan played his first game for the Trojans after transferring from Fordham. Fontan finished with 15 points and was 6-of-7 from the foul line. He had five turnovers (including one where he stepped out of bounds with USC down 69-68 with six seconds remaining) but, considering the atmosphere and the opponent, it's tough to do anything but praise Fontan's performance. It's clear his presence changes the complexion of USC's team. Before Fontan became eligible the Trojans lost to TCU, Rider, Bradley and Northern Arizona. Now Kevin O'Neill's squad looks capable of winning the Pac-10 title. Fontan gives USC another player who can score on the perimeter. That means teams will be forced to stretch their defense, which will make it hard for opponents to double-team standout post players Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. The twosome combined for 31 points and 16 rebounds Saturday against one of the nation's top frontcourts. Again, a lot of that was because of Fontan, who O'Neill is already calling the team's best player. Fontan, who averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 assists as a freshman at Fordham, scored six straight points in the second half to shave USC's 10-point deficit to 52-48 with 9:30 remaining. There were five ties and five lead changes from that point on. Even though it didn't work out for USC in the end, the Trojans left Lawrence with the realization that the addition of Fontan will make them competitive with anyone. That includes Tennessee, which USC faces on Tuesday in Knoxville.
- Kansas Jayhawks