For some players, the practice gym is a place to work out and get better outside of organized practices. For Missouri freshman Kim English Jr., it's a second home.
The 24-hour Albrecht Family Practice Facility at Mizzou Arena was one of the key reasons the 6-foot-6 inch, 200-pound guard from Baltimore decided to turn down offers from several big schools closer to home, including Tennessee, Florida State and Miami, to play basketball for the Tigers.
English Jr. doesn't just practice in the facility. He's spent the night there so often he eventually brought a cover and blanket that he keeps in the lounge, and he frequently took naps in the film room during two-a-days.
"He's a gym rat," said Missouri coach Mike Anderson. "I think it's very evident he's one of those guys."
English Jr. credits most of his work ethic to his dad, Kim English Sr., whose team at Baltimore City Community College competed in the same national junior college tournament Anderson did. English Sr. said his son has always been around a basketball, whether it was in the gym, at the park or just in the backyard with the hoop his dad bought him while he was in high school.
"He put the ball in my hands," English Jr. said. "Whenever I was younger playing video games, he always would say, ‘While you're in here, somebody's outside getting better.' "
Although he didn't keep in touch with his son's future coach, the elder English would always tell his son about befriending Mike Anderson when they watched his teams on television. The younger English's eyes light up as he recalls watching the 2004 Alabama-Birmingham team that upset No. 1 Kentucky to reach the NCAA Sweet 16.
"His dad is a big sports fan," Anderson said, "and Kimmy would be good at trivia. If someone asked him about any kind of sport, especially basketball, he's got an answer for it."
English Jr. would often challenge his dad to games of one-on-one, or "horse" and "around the world" as his father's knees began to age. The first time English Sr. lost, he said his son was "jumping for joy."
"It was just surprising because he has a lot of newspaper clippings around the house, and when I beat him, I just felt like I was on top of the world," English Jr. said.
Anderson likes the toughness English Jr. gained from spending a year at Notre Dame Prep School, a tiny basketball powerhouse in Fitchburg, Mass., which boasts notable alumni such as last year's no. 2 NBA draft pick, Michael Beasley. Playing alongside other Division I recruits, English Jr. was named team MVP and averaged 17.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. In Wednesday's Black and Gold game, he took some ill-advised shots early on, but settled in and scored 13 points in the second half including three three-pointers.
"He has no fear creating his shot and just being aggressive with the ball in his hands," junior guard J.T. Tiller said.
Despite all of his individual success on the basketball court, English Jr. remembers what his dad told him. He's a big supporter of a new mantra this season put forth by assistant coach Matt Zimmerman.
"He says, ‘Play hard, act right,'" English Jr. said. "If you play hard and act right, that takes care of everything."
Anderson said English Jr.'s role this year will probably be as a scoring guard on the wing. That means he'll be fighting for time with Tiller, Matt Lawrence, and Marcus Denmon in Anderson's up-tempo offense, which English Sr. said fits his son's game perfectly.
"What he brings to the table, the guy can put the ball in the hole, "Anderson said. "So hopefully we can utilize that, and hopefully he can glue it together here and become a better defensive player."
Even though it'll mean he's crossing nearly half the country, English Sr. will still be coming to Columbia once or twice each month. He also expects to go to Puerto Rico from Nov. 20-23 to watch the Tigers compete in the O'Reilly's Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off. It would be easy to look ahead to the Tigers' opener in Puerto Ricoagainst Xavier, but English Jr. is resisting the temptation.
"Right now, I'm looking at Lincoln (University)," English Jr. said. "I'm worried about practice every day."