By Brad Locke
NEW ORLEANS – A loyal reader sent me an email on Monday saying she was disappointed that Dee Bost did not win the Howell Trophy, which is given annually to the best male college basketball player in the state. The award went to Bost’s Mississippi State teammate, junior Arnett Moultrie, who’s in his first season with the team after transferring from UTEP.
“He has played his heart out for Miss. State for four years and along comes Moultrie and gets all the glory,” she wrote.
Of course, the Howell Trophy is awarded based on that season’s performance, but I understand the sentiment. Bost has anchored this team since his freshman year as the Bulldogs’ point guard. He’s now a fourth-year starter and is trying to lead State to its third SEC Tournament title game in four years.
He directed the attack in 2009, when MSU won the SEC title to advance to the NCAA tournament. He’d never been a point guard prior to that season, and he earned SEC all-freshman honors.
Now he’s a first-team All-SEC player who’s trying to get MSU into the Big Dance for the first time since his freshman year. Conventional wisdom says the Bulldogs need probably two wins to earn an at-large berth, although doing even that would bring no guarantees.
“We’re going to go in there with a mindset feeling like we have to win it all,” Bost said.
If Bost can get his teammates to embrace that mindset, then maybe MSU really can make a run in spite of all its issues. Rodney Hood is still hurt, the bench is razor thin, and there have been several defensive letdowns.
There was that five-game losing streak and some accompanying inner turmoil, based on the words of Arnett Moultrie just over a week ago. Moultrie said at the time that everybody on the team had their own agenda.
MSU has won two in a row since then, and it’s truly been a team effort. Three players – including Bost – recorded double-doubles against South Carolina. On Saturday versus Arkansas, Bost had 16 points and seven assists as MSU blew the doors off Arkansas on senior day.
Now comes a date with Georgia and a chance to avenge a Feb. 11 loss. The game is Thursday, and when Bost steps on the court he’ll be the only MSU scholarship player to have participated in each of the last four SEC Tournaments.
He won’t want to leave the New Orleans Arena floor until MSU has been crowned as champion. That would mean more to him than the Howell Trophy or any other honor.
“Dee, he’s just an ultra-competitive guy to start with, and that’s probably his greatest strength that doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, is just how competitive he is,” MSU assistant coach Phil Cunningham said. “When you walk out there on the court, he’s one of those guys, he wants to be playing on Sunday. He doesn’t want to get beat, he loves the lights and loves advancing in the tournament.”
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com