COLUMBIA — Sophomore guard Kim English had not been himself lately.
The Missouri men's basketball team's South Padre Tournament opener against Texas-Pan American on Sunday at Mizzou Arena didn’t appear to be any different. Instead of starting, English came off the bench and appeared unprepared. His jersey was dangling lazily outside of his shorts and he jogged out slowly. In his first possession he forced a baseline drive and bounced the ball off his leg.
Then he made a three-pointer in that same corner 30 seconds later. English then drove the ball confidently and drew a foul. All of a sudden, English began to look more confident on the court, he didn’t hesitate to shoot and took only open jump shots.
At the end of the game the basket appeared to be 10-feet wide for English, he only missed three shots all game. He made shots from the corner to the top of the key in his career high 25-point effort in Missouri’s 100-44 win over Texas-Pan American. He was all smiles on the bench and even received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson said a game like this was important for English.
“Confidence. It builds confidence,” Anderson said. “He is important to our basketball team as well as Zaire and Keith Ramsey, all those guys are important to our basketball team ... hopefully it will build some confidence with him.”
The usually confident and sure-shooting guard has appeared tentative and frustrated on the court in his first few games. He took shots fading away with a player in his face, forced up jumpers with two players on him and had five turnovers in Missouri’s season opener against Tennessee-Martin. English said his struggles affected his play.
“When you’re in a cold streak you can’t ever second-guess yourself. You just got to get back in the gym and slow everything down,” English said. “When you got it going, you could speed it up, and your mechanics can be off because you can mentally see the ball going in the hole.”
However, the cold streak has also been a blessing in disguise for the shooting guard. He said it has made him a more complete player. Rather than relying on his jump shot to help the team, he said he looks for other areas he can help the team.
“This week in practice I was thinking about doing everything, rebounding, passing and taking care of the ball,” English said. “I don’t want to be a guy that can do one thing. I want to be guys like coach always says, ‘pick your poison.’”
That mentality helped English prepare for the game Sunday. He said he began looking to do everything else, but shoot. In the game, he came out trapping and almost forced a 10-second violation, and finished the game with five rebounds. Anderson said that because English started the game off the bench and looked to do more than shoot, it opened up the game for his jump shot.
“I think it took the pressure away from him. I thought he came in a lot more relaxed. The thing about it, he didn’t concentrate on shooting. He did a lot of other things,” Anderson said. “He had assists, some steals, some deflections, diving on the floor, he was active in rebounding, and that is what he has to do to help our basketball team.”
English said he spent nights after practice with his teammates shooting jumper after jumper to find his groove. The guard said his teammates were key in helping him rebound from his funk.
“My teammates were on me all week, they were just confident and keep feeding me the ball, saying ‘keep shooting, keep shooting,’” English said. “This is a very selfless basketball team.”
Having English shooting well will be big for the Tigers as the team prepares to head to South Padre Island, Texas, for the rest of the tournament. Anderson said a game like this is key in building confidence for their team. Their next game will be at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Chattanooga.
“In a game like this, hopefully it can build some confidence in our team,” Anderson said. “Coming from the last game we played, when we played Tennessee-Martin, to come and bring our practice to the game.”