Missouri's English confident heading into NBA Draft

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | 8:49 p.m. CDT; updated 10:28 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Former Missouri players Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe are hoping to be chosen during Thursday's NBA Draft, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Newark, N.J., and will be televised on ESPN.

COLUMBIA — Kim English is ready.

He's ready to play basketball at the highest level, ready to have his last name sprawled across the back of a NBA jersey, something he couldn't say at this time last year.

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After the 2010-11 season, English and teammate Laurence Bowers looked into the NBA Draft before ultimately deciding to return to school.

"I was so green and wide-eyed last year going through it," English said at the team banquet in April.

This past spring, English started the process again, this time with a different mindset.

"I understand the NBA game a lot better than I did last year," he said. "I feel I'm finally ready, I feel like I belong."

English is one of many players hoping to be chosen during Thursday's NBA Draft, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Newark, N.J., and will be televised on ESPN.

Bowers said the process that he and English went through last year "wasn't too complicated." They worked out for a bunch of teams and received feedback from scouts about where they could expect to get picked in the draft and what they need to work on to improve their draft stock.

"I definitely started working on some things that they told me to improve," Bowers said.

Strength and ball-handling were two key things that Bowers said he focused on before suffering a season-ending knee injury in October. He said English began working on "staying the course and letting the game come to him," which was certainly evident during last season.

In a senior day win against Iowa State, English showed that the game had slowed down for him. He caught a fast-break pass from Michael Dixon, side-stepped one defender, took two dribbles towards the next defender and finished with a layup. It was a play that earlier in his career would have resulted in a jump shot or a pass back to a teammate.

With the game slowing down, English was one of the key players in Missouri’s 30-win season, setting career-best single-season marks in almost every category, the most notable being his field goal percentage of 52.1 percent.

He especially caught the attention of the nation when he won the Big 12 tournament MVP award by averaging 23 points during the three games that led to the Tigers title.

English's Big 12 champion teammates Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe, who did not declare for the draft last year, are also hoping to be drafted on Thursday.

The three seniors had a lot of individual success with Frank Haith coaching them last season. Denmon was named second-team NCAA All-American and Ratliffe led the nation with a shooting percentage of 69.1 percent. English said Haith helped them all learn how to prepare for opponents, "and that's gonna be big in the NBA."

After his Missouri basketball career ended, English continued to make strides to boost his draft stock.

English signed on with agent Leon Rose, who is also the agent of reigning NBA champion LeBron James.

"He's a really good agent, and he just told me how much he really wanted to work with me," English said.

Other big stars, such as Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) and Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) also have Rose for an agent. And several more big names, not just in basketball, use agents from the organization that employs Rose: CAA Sports.

English said that Rose, who did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story, is the one who sought out their partnership. Rose is only representing two other players that could get picked in Thursday's draft — Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Penn's Zack Rosen.

"That was a big selling point with me, knowing that I'll get a lot of attention, and I know he's a well-respected man in the business," English said.

With Rose in tow, English participated in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in April and elevated his draft stock with a performance that earned him a spot on the all-tournament team.

Ratliffe also participated in the PIT and helped his team win the tournament title.

After Portsmouth, English was one of 60 players invited to the NBA Draft Combine in June in Chicago. Recent history shows that players who are invited to the draft combine have a very good chance of being drafted.

Denmon, who chose not to participate in the PIT, was also invited to the draft combine. Ratliffe was not.

Bowers predicts that if English ends up with the right team, he could be very successful in the NBA. He said he expects him to be a player similar to the Chicago Bulls' Kyle Korver, who made 113 three-pointers last season.

Bowers likened Ratliffe to current NBA players DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs) and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), who have both found success despite being shorter than typical NBA power forwards.

He said he could see Denmon being a "good undersized scorer" at the next level, similar to Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets) or Monta Ellis (Milwaukee Bucks). He added that Denmon has been working on being able to play point guard.

When Bowers goes to the draft next year, he will have English to learn from.

"We lived together for three years, he's like my brother," Bowers said about English. "He's always been a guy I've respected both on and off the court. He's someone I can go to for advice."

But now, he's just waiting to see where his teammates end up.

"I'm very excited for Thursday, I have my fingers crossed for all three of those guys," he said.

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