Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 forward who starred for the Bulldogs for one season, is expected to be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft, which begins at 6 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
The Memphis native could be the first Bulldog picked in the first round since 1996, when Erick Dampier was taken 10th overall by Indiana and Dontae’ Jones was taken 21st by New York.
Moultrie has gone from being a late-first to early-second rounder to a possible mid-first round pick. Jay Bilas, a basketball analyst for ESPN, sees him as a pick in the early teens to early 20s.
“He keeps getting better and better,” Bilas said. “He was solid at UTEP, but didn’t make his free throws and wasn’t really efficient and all that. Then he goes to Mississippi State, and he kept getting better. His free throw shooting improved, all his percentages, his finishing, his skill level kept getting better.”
After two seasons at UTEP, Moultrie transferred to MSU. He sat out a year, as required under NCAA rules, then averaged 16.4 points and an SEC-leading 10.5 rebounds per game last season. Moultrie also had 18 double-doubles and was named first-team All-SEC.
It was not a good season for MSU, which stumbled to the finish and lost to UMass in the first round of the NIT. Head coach Rick Stansbury retired after 14 years.
The only knock Bilas had on Moultrie was that he didn’t always play hard.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to judge, because he played – and I don’t mean this to sound bad – but he played on a dysfunctional team last year, and that couldn’t have helped,” Bilas said. “I’m sitting here talking about him playing harder, (but) it’s hard to play hard when some of your teammates aren’t.”
No call for Sidney?
One teammate often accused of slacking was Renardo Sidney, who also left a year early for the draft. His talent alone makes him a consideration in the second round.
The 6-foot-10 Sidney, who struggled with weight and attitude issues – and there was that infamous brawl in Hawaii – averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds last season.
“Renardo Sidney’s got a ton of ability, but it’s been unrealized to this point,” Bilas said. “He does not always play hard, and I don’t see anybody signing up for that.”
Also hoping to be drafted is Dee Bost, a four-year starter at point guard for MSU. If he and Sidney aren’t taken, they could sign as free agents.
If Moultrie goes in the first round tonight, MSU will have a first-rounder taken in each of the major sports this year. Fletcher Cox was selected 12th overall by Philadelphia in April’s NFL Draft, and Chris Stratton was taken 20th overall by San Francisco earlier this month in the Major League Draft.
Arnett Moultrie could become the seventh Mississippi State player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Here are the previous six (overall selection in parentheses):
• Bailey Howell, Detroit (2nd), 1957
• Wiley Peck, San Antonio (19th), 1979
• Rickey Brown, Golden State (13th), 1980
• Jeff Malone, Washington (10th), 1983
• Erick Dampier, Indiana (10th), 1996
• Dontae’ Jones, New York (21st), 1996