Mississippi State's roster in a state a flux

By David Brandt

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 2:14 p.m. MDT

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State is still looking for a new basketball coach.

When the coach is finally hired, he'll likely be looking for several new players.

There's been a rash of defections from the Bulldogs over the past week. The most recent was Arnett Moultrie, who announced on Wednesday he intends to skip his senior season and enter the NBA draft. The 6-foot-11 forward from Memphis, Tenn., averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season.

He joins forward Renardo Sidney and guard DeVille Smith, who have also decided to leave the program in the past week. Both played significant roles over the past season.

The roster upheaval has added to the uncertainty surrounding the program ever since head coach Rick Stansbury announced his retirement on March 15 after 14 seasons.

But Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin has insisted he won't rush his decision on a new coach.

"We'll look for somebody who is the right guy — the right fit. There's no timetable," Stricklin said shortly after Stansbury's retirement press conference. "However long it takes to identify whoever that is."

Moultrie's decision wasn't entirely shocking, considering the 21-year-old has been in college for four years. He played at Texas El-Paso for two seasons before sitting out a year because of NCAA transfer rules, and then played one year for the Bulldogs.

In a statement released by the school, Moultrie said he hasn't signed with an agent, but plans to do so.

"After careful consideration and discussions with my family and my coaches, I have decided to explore my options and enter my name in 2012 NBA Draft," Moultrie said. "... I have enjoyed my time at Mississippi State University and I will never forget the people I met and got to know."

Moultrie's departure means the Bulldogs will have only one full-time starter returning.

That would be guard Rodney Hood, who was one of the best freshmen in the Southeastern Conference last season. The 6-foot-8 Hood averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season.

Forward Wendell Lewis (3.8 ppg, 4 rpg) and guard Jalen Steele (8.7 ppg) are also expected to return.

Some of the top coaching names Mississippi State might have considered are now likely off the market. Murray State coach Steve Prohm recently received a raise and contract extension while Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart has turned down overtures from Illinois and appears to be settled.

Stricklin has routinely said that he's not targeting a certain type of coach.

"The four traits we always talk about — work ethic, competitiveness, intelligence and an ability to sell — we won't deviate from that," Stricklin said. "I think that's a formula that works. I don't care if (the candidate) is a head coach, assistant coach, comes from a big school, small school, (or is) young or old."

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