JACKSON – (AP) Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury felt like a torn parent when two of his players – Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie – were named finalists for the Howell Trophy.
Only one of them could win. Turns out it was Moultrie.
Though Stansbury felt both were deserving, he couldn’t fault the voters’ decision, especially since the 14th-year Bulldogs’ coach feels Moultrie embodies everything that made the trophy’s namesake – former Mississippi State star Bailey Howell – so good.
“Dee Bost has had a great career, but you sure can’t argue with Moultrie,” Stansbury said. “He does the one thing that Bailey did and that’s give you tremendous rebounding.”
Delta State’s Veronica Walker was Monday’s other winner when she earned the Gillom Trophy for the second straight season. Both Moultrie and Walker were presented their awards on Monday during a ceremony at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The Howell and Gillom Trophies are given to the state’s top men’s and women’s basketball player, respectively.
“She’s a winner and she’s been committed,” Delta State coach Sandra Rushing said. “She’s extended her game to shoot the 3, she’s had to run the point sometimes and she’s been the stabilizing influence with four freshmen. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been a pleasure.”
Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 junior from Memphis, Tenn., leads the Bulldogs with 16.1 points per game and leads the entire Southeastern Conference with 10.7 rebounds per game and 18 double-doubles. The Bulldogs have a 21-10 record and 8-8 mark in the SEC.
Moultrie was expected to be an impact transfer after leaving Texas-El Paso to join the Bulldogs, but not even he could predict that he would turn into one of the SEC’s best players immediately.
“I’m definitely playing above my expectations, but I’m just thankful and staying humble,” Moultrie said.
Mississippi State is trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs face Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday in New Orleans.
Moultrie said the team has recovered from a five-game losing streak in February thanks to back-to-back wins against South Carolina and Arkansas last week.
“Right now I think we’re playing our best basketball,” Moultrie said. “We worked out all our kinks and bruises, squashed everything that needed to be squashed, addressed the things that needed to be addressed and now we’re moving forward.”
Bost and Southern Miss’ Neil Watson were the other two Howell finalists.
Walker leads Delta State with 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The Lady Statesmen have a 21-6 record and will play in the NCAA Division II playoffs later this week.
Walker, a 6-foot-1 senior from Indianola, Miss., has played all five positions for the Lady Statesmen this season and it’s that versatility that’s made her so hard to guard for opposing teams.
“Whatever it takes, you know,” Walker said. “It’s just staying focused, playing hard and putting in the work. Sometimes it gets frustrating having such a young team, but I was once in their shoes, so I just try to guide them the best I can.”
Mississippi State’s Diamber Johnson and Mississippi’s Valencia McFarland were the other two Gillom finalists.