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Cougars' Heather English hides soft side while on the court

Friday, February 22, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Columbia College Cougars guard Heather English dribbles the ball in a game against Hannibal-Lagrange College on Feb. 12.

COLUMBIA- Heather English throws up a shot while being swarmed by four Hannibal-LaGrange Trojans on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Even though the shot goes astray and she is fouled on the play, Heather English will never back down.

English, a junior criminal justice major, is the second leading scorer for Columbia College, ranked 15th nationally. The Boonville native plays with an aggressive style and rarely smiles after warm-ups start.

“Our radio guy says I get this facial expression that says, ‘I’m going to the basket and I’m going to score,'” English said. “Whenever we need a basket, I know I can get it done.”

Since December, she has worn a black brace on her right shoulder that makes her look even more intimidating. She has played with pain the entire season and thinks she tore her labrum early in the year. Columbia College coach Mike Davis said English dislocated her shoulder and will probably have surgery at the end of the season.

In the win over Hannibal-LaGrange, English cut her cheek while going for a rebound with less than 16 minutes left in the second half. After a quick trip to the trainer’s room and a little glue, English returned and led the Cougars in scoring with 17 points.

Pain does not bother Heather English. It only makes her play harder.

English may not lead Columbia College in scoring, but she is the unquestioned leader of the team. Because of that, Davis said she can be a challenge to play with. She expects her teammates to play hard in games and practices. In games, she leads her team like a silent general. She does her job, and expects her troops to follow suit.

“You don’t always get hugs and kisses from Heather,” Davis said.

Though she doesn't show it on the basketball court, English has a softer side.

She grew up idolizing Mike Davis’ daughter, Whitney Davis. Whitney Davis was graduating from Columbia College just as her father was trying to recruit English. English wore No. 4 in high school - the same number as Whitney Davis.

“After (English) committed to coming here, I said, ‘Do you guys have any more questions?’” Mike Davis said. “ She said she didn’t have any. Her mom told her, ‘Go ahead, go ahead.’ So she said, ‘Could I have number 4?’” 

In addition to basketball, English also played softball, soccer and ran track growing up. But English said basketball was always her first love.

When English’s stepmother, Laura English, first met her father, English walked into the living room dribbling a basketball.

“Kids don’t do that,” Laura English said.

Heather English said she lives just far enough away from Boonville to have independence. Though she lives in the dorms with her team, her mother - Sheri Phillips - still calls her every day. Though English is 21, she joked that her mom can still be slightly overprotective.

Only now, when discussing her mother, does English show her softer side. It can be hard to find, especially at the Southwell Complex. English slows her speech, and the tone of her voice drops.

“Me and my mom are really close,” English said.

Phillips has witnessed a side of English that her teammates and fans don't always see.

“She’s an extremely caring person,” Phillips said. “She’s very protective of her little brother.”

English's father, Ron English, said she is a “family girl.” Her parents attend most of her home and road games. English still makes it home to her parents’ houses every other week, though she goes home less during the basketball season.

English stayed close to home to be with both of her families. Basketball gives her a family away from home. And even though she has to be a tough leader on the court, she appreciates the camaraderie she has with her teammates.

“We’re all a big family,” English said. “Basketball is another family for me. It’s always been in my life.”


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