By: Andrew Shepler
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Unlike most college freshman who spend much of their first year in the dorms, Missouri’s Kim English spent most of his days and nights at Mizzou Arena.
English, known by teammates and coaches as a gym rat, spent plenty of time working on his game during the summer. He even slept on a Tiger-print chair in the locker room so he could get extra practice.
“I’m always trying to get better because I believe while you’re sleeping someone else is working to get better,” English said.
English estimates he spent between 12 to 20 nights in the locker room. The players have a key fob that gives them 24-hour access to the arena. Assistant coach Matt Zimmerman said it was a couple weeks after English arrived in Columbia that the coaching staff realized he was sleeping in the arena.
“We were doing a lot of strength and weight room stuff that they’re allowed to come to, it's kind of optional for them in the summer if they want to come," Zimmerman said. "A lot of that stuff was in the mornings and our guys play a lot at night on their own, pickup games, so he would just stay up here.”
Senior Matt Lawrence has seen the dedication spreading throughout the locker room.
“He’s rubbing off, especially on the other freshman,” Lawrence said of English. “It makes me want to work harder too. I’ve been here a long time, but seeing the fresh legs from these guys, it’s kind of inspiring.”
English said his teammates have responded positively to the extra effort.
“Yeah they definitely respect it because it’s to make us better and the rest of the guys they join in like Marcus (Denmon) and Miguel (Paul) have all spent the night with me before,” English said. “Zaire (Taylor) stayed up here some during the season. I think after we lost to Illinois he stayed up here like two straight days and he has shown astronomical improvements.”
For English, the hard work has been paying off. English earned his first-career start on Jan. 14 against Colorado, and followed that up with a start against Iowa State three days later.
“Kim has been playing well,” coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s just one of those feel things, just see how he responds. After initially getting out there and getting the nerves out, I thought he did pretty good.”
English said the opportunity to be a starter still hasn’t quite set in.
“I don’t think I can really appreciate it yet,” English said. “I haven’t really yet because it was spur of the moment that he told me. I just want to get out there and just get all the antics over with like the starting lineups, the lights going off, the chest bumps. I just wanted to play.”
English scored 12 points in the win over Colorado and led the team with three steals. English followed that up with nine points in the victory over Iowa State.
“Starting is not that important, it’s just who finishes the game,” English said. “As long as we win I don’t care who starts.”
Now that the season is underway, English isn't sleeping at the arena. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still putting in the extra effort.
“I’m big on time alone in the gym,” English said. “Me and a few other guys, we always come early before practice and get a lot of shots up and stay after.”
Conditioning is one of the things that English said he has worked on in practice.
“When we first started practice I would be getting wide open shots and my eyes would light up but they’d be short,” English said. “I was working so hard on the defensive end that the same shots I would make nine of ten in prep school wouldn’t fall anymore.”
The combination of speed and strength also took some getting used to.
“It’s not that hard anymore, but this summer when we first got here it was really hard because I played with guys faster than the guys on my team and I played with some men that are stronger, but the combination of speed and strength here is bar none some of the best in the nation,” said English.
With all the extra work, English said he is having fun getting to know his teammates.
“We’re friends,” English said. “It’s like we’re just friends in college playing basketball with each other, that’s what it feels like. It doesn’t feel like an obligation. We don’t hate coming to practice.”
English said he enjoys coming to practice and laughing with his teammates.
“We’re just kids in college having fun playing basketball, that’s what I like the most,” he said.