COLUMBIA — It wasn't much of a matchup.
NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets is averaging 29.2 points a game this season in the league. It didn't make sense for Kim English, the skinny sophomore guard on the Missouri men's basketball team, to be the one trying to stop Anthony, who routinely gets past the best professionally players.
Missouri (18-7, 6-4 Big 12) hosts No. 15 Texas (20-5, 6-4 Big 12) on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.
But English couldn't pass up the opportunity this past summer in a pickup game at Anthony's youth development center in Baltimore, where both players grew up. The results, not surprisingly, weren't the best for English.
"It didn't work out in my advantage," English said laughing about the encounter.
English couldn't keep up with Anthony. Defense hasn't been his strength. Throughout his time with the Tigers, English’s name has become synonymous with the word shooter.
English is notorious for staying overnight at the gym where he spends more time shooting jump shots than he does sleeping. English attempts the most 3-point shots on the team. Everything about him seems to involve his silky-smooth jumper. Even his nickname in the media guide, Sniper, deals with his accuracy as a jump shooter.
But with the Tigers, English has learned he has to be more.
“Coach (Mike) Anderson has done a tremendous job trying to get him to do different things because coming out of high school he was strictly just a shooter,” Cleveland said. “And to play for coach Anderson you can’t be just one-dimensional, we don’t play that way.”
English knew if he was going to be effective in the Big 12, he would need to become a more complete player.
“This offseason, when I was home and even here, I worked on being an all-around player,” English said. “I’m just trying to become a more complete player. A player that is hard to scout, a player that is hard to defend, a player that is hard to play against, period.”
His matchup against Anthony was all part of his goal to defend the best player on the court at all times. It has been encounters like those that has helped English improve.
“He’s improved tremendously, just from the beginning of the season until now,” T.J. Cleveland, an assistant coach for Missouri, said. “He has stepped up in the rebound area and leadership. He’s just becoming an all-around player.”
The 6-foot-6 guard had the height and the athletic ability to become more than a one-dimensional player, but he didn’t work on it like his shooting. English's summer defending Anthony helped fix that problem.
"It just made me be versatile and understand different ways to guard people," English said.
As a result English has taken a new aggressive approach on the court. Most notably his rebounding, where he often does his best imitation of the Mario Brothers video game character Luigi, jumping in the air and somehow floating there longer than anybody else to grab the ball. English is also averaging a steal more than last season. Cleveland said English has become more effective on defense and that trickles down to the rest of the team.
“He’s proving to coach Anderson that he can do other things than just shooting the ball, and he is also showing his teammates that, ‘hey I can get out here and get it done,’” Cleveland said. “And that rubs off on the other guys and it helps us win.”
English said the biggest influence on his defense has come from watching his coach. English said he sits and watches Anderson scrimmage against the managers and coaches, and then imitates his coach in the game. He has used that experience to become a craftier defender.
“I look up to him (Anderson) big time,” English said. “I look up to him as a player. I think he was pretty good back in his day, just from watching him play now. He understands the game, and I like his game.”
Much like his never-ending pursuit to perfect his jump shot, English said he still needs to improve his lateral quickness if he ever wants a shot at playing with the likes of Anthony or at least keep up with speedy Big 12 guards like Kansas' Sherron Collins.
“I'm pretty solid guarding guys my size or maybe a little taller," English said. "But when I got to guard the ... smaller guards, that's when I got to really buckle down and play solid defense.”