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Arnett Moultrie is back and better than ever.
by Dave Spahn / @davespahn
After the departure of Tony Barbee from UTEP to Auburn, Arnett Moultrie found himself in a tricky situation.
The coach to whom he pledged his time, commitment and effort for his entire college career decided to take another job after Arnett’s sophomore season. Coming off two fantastic seasons in which he averaged nearly 10 points and 7 rebounds per game, Arnett realized he had two choices: stay at UTEP and play for new coach Tim Floyd or start the recruiting process over again and find a new place to call home.
Staying at UTEP meant he would be playing for a coach who did not recruit him, so playing time was not guaranteed. Leaving UTEP, however, meant he had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Arnett pondered the decision for a while but ultimately felt he had higher chances of playing at the next level if he left UTEP.
He started the process over again and contacted some of the schools that originally recruited him. In the end, Arnett’s familiarity with the coaching staff at Mississippi State won out over the competition.
“Mississippi State recruited me since high school, so I felt comfortable with the staff there,” explained Arnett. “Coach (Phil) Cunningham had a great relationship with my family, which was important to me because I wanted to try to stay close to home this time.”
Ask any player who competes at a high level of basketball, or any sport for that matter, how hard it is to sit out of all games for a whole season and come back stronger than before. An incredible amount of focus in the film room, extra reps on the court for drill work, and a dedication to the weight room are only a few things that can help ease the process of a year away from true competition. Instead of looking at the negatives about sitting out, however, Arnett decided to worry about the positive things he could take away from his year without games.
“Sitting out let me spend more time on the weaknesses of my game,” Moultrie stated. ” I worked on my strength in the weight room and my back to basket play the most. I knew that in order to be ready for the next level, I needed to take advantage of my time off and improve every aspect of my game.”
The move to transfer looks like it paid off. Arnett’s weight room dedication helped him gain 20 pounds of muscle and add some much needed strength to his long frame. He went from a lengthy big man to a force around the rim by refining his body and his post game.
Already an elite rebounder, Moultrie has seen great results in the stat sheet this season. He recently dropped 19 points and 10 boards against Arizona to not only win the championship of the 2K Sports Classic, but also garner MVP honors as well. He credits his work ethic and intensity for his accomplishments so far this season.
“I try to be the hardest worker every time I step on the floor,” said Moultrie. “I want to prove my versatility this year by showing my inside-outside game and by being a monster on the glass.”
Mississippi State knocked off two ranked teams last week and showed their depth with five players averaging 8 ppg or more. Moultrie is the team’s second leading scorer with 15.6 ppg and the leading rebounder with 11.2 rpg.
The Bulldogs definitely have the pieces to make some noise this year in the SEC. A front court of Moultrie and the talented-yet-enigmatic Renardo Sidney combined the backcourt duo of star Dee Bost and freshmen Rodney Hood gives the Bulldogs enough talent to stay in virtually every game they play.
The key for the Bulldogs will be the collective attitude of the team. If selfishness comes into play, forget about it. If the team shares the ball, dedicates themselves to the defensive end, and brings an added level of toughness due to their squad being under-looked, don’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs cause some problems atop the SEC standings.
“Yeah, we are definitely getting overlooked,” Moultrie stated when asked about MSU’s public perception. “I’ve always been underrated my whole life. I was under recruited out of high school and saw interest from mostly mid majors. I just used it as motivation and am used to it by now. My teammates and I just come to practice and try to get better so we can beat the teams that are getting all the hype.”