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“The Difference” is wearing a striped polo shirt and a pair of blue jean short. Sitting right next to him is his father, equally casual sporting a blue and white L.A. baseball cap.
Both are absorbing the hottest days that Southern California can remember and both are fresh from Mamma’s Soul Food restaurant polishing off a plate of ox-tails and black-eyed peas.
Far removed from their Jackson, Mississippi roots; the star basketball player and the father/coach/mentor had just left Fairfax High School in West Los Angeles where Renardo Sidney, Jr. enrolled for his junior year.
For most Southern Californians, it was just a disgustingly hot day, but for coach Harvey Kitani and the defending City and Division I State champion Lions basketball team, it was very cool.
By transferring from Artesia to Fairfax, the 6-foot-10-inch Renardo Jr., coined “The Difference” by his father, Renardo Sr., is expected to change the landscape of high school hoops in the Los Angeles City Section.
At the very least, for the next two years, Fairfax will be the hottest ticket in town and “The Difference” is the much-celebrated Renardo Jr.
Last season, in his first season of high school ball, he led the Artesia boys to the CIF Southern Section Division II and Division III State championships.
His rare gifts as a hoop phenom were envisioned as early as the time he was a seventh grader when his father Renardo Sr. and Jr.’s grandfather was watching him play and he dunked a basketball.
The following year, he was invited to the prestigious ABCD camp for the elite high school players in the nation and he earned co-MVP. “The Difference” wasn’t even in high school then.
Still quite humble and speaking with his twisted Southern drawl, Junior sat his white Sidekick down and discussed his future with the Sentinel.
Well, sort of. What he would not openly discuss are his college choices for fear of offending someone, but as for his prep career, it will conclude in the Lions Den.
Renardo Sr. explained that the primary reason for the move was to continue to support his older son, who is attending nearby Santa Monica College, and also because he felt the academics are better than what Artesia offered.
“My other son is going to Santa Monica Junior College and my wife works at Hollywood Hills so it would be much more convient for us to live in the Fairfax area,” said Renardo Sr.
The father explained that his primary reason for coming to Southern California was marketing for his son and more exposure.
“We’re in a bigger ocean and in Mississippi we were in a pond,” he explained.
Hurricane Katrina did not have the effect on their home in Jackson that Renardo Jr. will have on the high school basketball landscape.
Compared to Kevin Garnett because of the versatility to his game, he can shoot it from the perimeter with candid accuracy, rebound like a beast and block shots like a volleyball player. Oh yeah, he can also handle the basketball like Magic Johnson.
It’s clear to see why “The Difference” has drawn so much attention wherever he’s gone and why Fairfax, which already was the favorite to win the City crown this year, will now be a shoo-in.
Fairfax has produced such NBA players like Chris Mills and Sean Higgins and most recently Josh Shipp and Chace Stanback at UCLA and Jarren Shipp at Arizona State, but never in their wildest dreams have they ever had anyone like “The Difference.”
Because of “The Difference,” Westchester will be playing for second place in the Western League and for a shot to lose to Fairfax again in the City playoffs.
Says Renardo Jr., “My dad told that I could be the first player to win a state championship in the City and CIF, but I hadn’t really thought about it much.
“The Difference” will not have to because when he’s hoisting that City and State trophy along with his teammates Chris Singleton et al, it will then be a reality.