Kim English compares his transition to Missouri's starting lineup to learning to swim.
Some children learn to swim in a class. They progress slowly from lesson to lesson, taking small steps toward the final goal.
Missouri (15-3, 2-1 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma State (12-4, 1-1)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Okla.
TV: Big 12 Network
Radio: KBXR/102.3 FM, KFRU/1400 AM
English's swimming education was a more rapid process. He was just thrown into the water. The learning curve was steep. He flailed to keep from sinking.
At first it was a struggle. But then he figured it out.
After coming off the bench for Missouri's first 16 games, English was thrown into the Tigers' starting lineup before last Wednesday's game against Colorado in a similar fashion.
English said that a few hours before the game, Missouri coach Mike Anderson told him he might start. English didn't find out for sure until assistant coach Matt Zimmerman told him in pregame warm-ups.
"(Starting) was nice, it just took a little getting used to," English said. "I haven't started a game since like last winter in prep school so it was an adjustment."
English had some jitters at the beginning of the game. He turned the ball over the first two times he touched it. But after a few minutes, English settled in. He finished with 12 points, helping Missouri to a 107-62 win.
"After initially getting out there and getting the nerves out, I thought he did pretty good," Anderson said.
English made his second career start against Iowa State on Saturday and scored nine points. The Tigers won 77-46.
The team's results with English as a starter would indicate that he will stay in the lineup, but Anderson said he's waiting to see what happens in practices before deciding who will start tonight at Oklahoma State.
"We'll see what takes place in practice. That's how you earn it," Anderson said.
English says he doesn't mind the uncertainty about his role. He likes starting, but he likes coming off the bench too. Early in the season, he enjoyed coming off the bench along with freshman guard Marcus Denmon.
"It's actually fun with Marcus. We come in together, kind of like the bash brothers. I'm the good-looking one," English said.
Traveling to Stillwater, Okla., to take on the Cowboys will be another adjustment for English. The Tigers lost their first conference road game at Nebraska on Jan 10. Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena will be an even more difficult environment.
English said he isn't too worried about the hostile crowd.
"The fans have no physical impact," English said. "They can't touch us, set a screen or block a layup."
English admits the crowd noise will be intimidating at first, but he hopes to quiet the fans quickly by hitting a few big shots.
To make room for English in the starting lineup, Anderson moved senior guard Matt Lawrence to the bench. Lawrence said Anderson didn't talk to him about the decision. The coach knew his senior could handle it.
Lawrence has seen a lot during his time on campus, including a coaching change and teammate suspensions for nightclub fights and traffic violations. One thing he hasn't experienced is the NCAA Tournament.
In his final season at Missouri, Lawrence is willing to do anything that might help his team win games.
"If I come off the bench and we win, that's fine with me," Lawrence said.
Beginning the game on the bench has been a bit of a challenge for Lawrence, who has been starting for over two seasons. When he starts, he is still loose from pregame warm-ups when he starts playing. Coming off the bench, he said it takes him a few trips up and down the floor to get the stiffness out of his legs.
Lawrence, the Tigers third leading scorer, didn't score against Iowa State. Still, Anderson was pleased with his performance. Lawrence made several hustle plays, on one occasion sprinting across the court and leaping out of bounds to save the ball.
"I thought Matt played some of the most inspired ball he's played in a long time, and that's good to see," Anderson said after the Iowa State game.