By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – As Mississippi State stumbled and bumbled through the 2010-11 season, Arnett Moultrie looked on from the bench, helpless to ease his new team’s troubles.
Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 forward, transferred after two years at UTEP to be closer to family in his hometown of Memphis. He was able to practice with the Bulldogs, but Moultrie had to keep a long-range perspective to stem the frustration of sitting out the season, as required by NCAA rules.
“It was real tough, but I had to stay focused,” he said. “It was frustrating for me at times, when I’m going to practice every day but knowing I ain’t going to suit up and play a game.”
Moultrie was important behind the scenes. He went hard in practice and tried to mentor troubled big man Renardo Sidney. If he was feeling down, he didn’t show it.
“He was always energized,” senior guard Dee Bost said. “He came to practice every day and worked hard and helped get Sid and Wendell (Lewis) and all them better.”
With Moultrie now joining Sidney and Lewis, who like him are juniors, MSU possesses one of the SEC’s most formidable frontcourts. Moultrie is a proven commodity, having averaged 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in two seasons, while Sidney could be dominant if he gets in shape.
Lewis has experience and became noticeably more aggressive last season, but opponents’ main focus will be on Moultrie and Sidney.
Bost thinks the pair could be the “best four-five punch in the nation,” and Moultrie agrees. He said he and Sidney talk often about what they can accomplish together.
“Just dominating,” Moultrie said. “Getting every rebound and dominating the paint and winning as many games as possible.”
Sidney has grown up a good bit, according to Moultrie, who offered the former McDonald’s All-American encouragement during the turbulent 2010-11 campaign, when Sidney was twice suspended by Stansbury and criticized by observers for being out of shape.
“I always tried to pull him aside, talk to him, tell him to keep his head, keep his cool,” said Moultrie. “But he grew up on his own.”
With Moultrie’s presence, Sidney will spend most of his time at the pivot.
If he can be disciplined enough to stay around the basket, then he and Moultrie will certainly be tough to handle.
Moultrie can step out and shoot when he needs to and has the athleticism to be a matchup problem.
“I think he’s a very versatile player,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He can bring some different skill level to your team. I think his engine runs most of the time.”
Moultrie has worked to put on weight and says he’s at 240 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than the weight listed last season. He credits daily weightlifting and a case a week of Muscle Milk, a protein drink.
The extra bulk will come in handy as Moultrie transitions from Conference USA to the SEC.
He’s not too concerned with the adjustment, citing his experience and knowledge of the game.
“The SEC’s one of the toughest leagues in the country,” Moultrie said, “but I’ve prepared myself for it.”