By MATTHEW STEVENS
Every member of this newer version of the Mississippi State men's basketball team seems already in agreement about one issue, literally and figuratively.
Time is short.
"Our motivation and our mindset is a lot different (from last season)," junior forward Arnett Moultrie said. "Our backs are against the wall this year, we have to win this year."
The Bulldogs summer workouts without the supervision of anybody but the training staff already have included a 12-second shot clock, 23 seconds shorter than the regulation version during games, and an up-and-down style that suits its new pieces.
A pair of those newcomers are Moultrie, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Texas El-Paso, who comes in with along with freshman wing Rodney Hood to form two legs of the forward triangle. The athletic duo of Moultrie and Hood will be paired with the returning post presence of Renardo
Moultrie was a recruit of former UTEP head coach and current Auburn coach Tony Barbee and had 9.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 62 total blocked shots for the Miners program that qualified for the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago. Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury hopes Moultrie lives up to hype created by the 13-year-old veteran on the bench after last season he called Moultrie "the best player right now".
"We should dominate the paint and get every rebound," Moultrie said. "It's going to look a lot different. (Renardo) is going to do a lot of the banging and I'll do the running and jumping - stuff like that."
Hood, a 6-foot-8 wing player from Meridian High School that averaged 24.8 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game while leading his team to a Class 6A state championship, was a first-team All-State performer in his final two seasons of high school action before signing a
National Letter of Intent with the Bulldogs during the early period last fall.
"Rodney Hood is going to be a great freshman that can come in and help us right away," Sidney said.
The 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Mississippi has immediately sold himself to the veterans in the MSU locker room that agree the freshmen deserves a spot in the starting lineup.
"He's already sold (to us)," MSU senior point guard Dee Bost said. "He can shoot the ball, play off the dribble, defend. All of the (freshmen) listen, come in and work hard."
This duo of Moultrie and Hood will get its first chance to play for Mississippi State during the school's preseason European exhibition tour in August, which includes games against teams from Amsterdam, Belgium and France.
"This European trip will be good for me to get some games under my belt and get me ready for the start the season," Moultrie said. "We all can't wait. Coach says he'll make it more fun than a normal business trip but we're going to approach it to win every game."
And then there's Sidney.
The major topic of conversation in the media has been the number of the junior center's weight and while he refused to say Monday the exact weight he was at this summer, he did say he'd lost 23 pounds during his workout session in Houston with former NBA player and head coach John Lucas, but was still above his listed weight of 270 pounds.
"I ran 18 miles a week," Sidney said. "We did two-a-days, basketball-wise. I've never worked that hard. I think the last time I worked that hard was in seventh grade."
No matter what his listed weight will be for the 2011-12 season, Sidney will have to be effective in a faster style of play than the half-court system that Mississippi State used in a 17-14 season that ended without a postseason berth.
The senior that will be running that fast break at the point likes what he's seeing this offseason from Sidney.
"He has gotten better conditioning (and) running on more possessions," Bost said. "He's trying."
In what he called his "worst year" on and off the court, Sidney averaged averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game after sitting out his freshman season and nine games last year due to an NCAA eligibility ruling.
While Sidney, Bost and Moultrie were all ineligible to play during the first month of the season, they spent time with what Stansbury joked was "probably the best" scout team, what MSU calls the Gold Team, in the nation.
"There's no difference really (on the first team) because we play real well together," Moultrie said. "It should be a lot more fast tempo, more run and gun."
Sidney's first season on the floor in Starkville included a highly-publicized fight between him and former MSU center Elgin Bailey in the stands between games of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii around Christmas 2011.
"I think I have a lot of people to show that I can do a lot of stuff this year," Sidney said. "I got a lot of stuff to prove about my attitude, my game and my conditioning."
According to NBADraft.net, all four of the MSU players previously mentioned are likely drafted prospects and obviously the special season in Starkville could raise their stock before they declare for professional basketball.
"It's going to be an amazing year," Sidney said. "I love this team this year. We're more focused than we were last year and all coming together."