While he was haunted over the summer by memories of his previous season, perhaps the best advice Missouri men’s basketball senior Kim English said he heard was a message relayed by senior teammate Marcus Denmon. It came from Denmon’s uncle, Martinez Denmon, a standout at Iowa State who was drafted by the Celtics in 1973.
“Confidence is restored,” he said.
On Friday night at Mizzou Arena, the 6-foot-6-inch English began the 2011 campaign with his team against Southeast Missouri State University starting at the power forward spot after three years of playing guard.
But his mission began in early October after 6-foot-8-inch senior Laurence Bowers’ season ended when he tore his ACL in his left leg during practice, and first-year coach Frank Haith was forced to adjust. Haith decided starting four guards was the best option for the team, and said the move would benefit English’s playing style.
“When you look at the position Kimmie’s playing, he’s going to have chances to get loose,” Haith said earlier in the season. “Most four guys won’t play guys out on the perimeter, which is a tremendous advantage on one end.”
On the other end, English would likely find himself attempting to neutralize bigger bodies than his own thin frame.
“I’m obviously smaller than any big in this league,” English said. “And that’s probably the best position in this league.”
English sounds aware of the challenges he faces at the new position. He talks about the importance of stopping offensive rebounds and defending the paint. He talks a lot about not letting his team down.
“We all depend on each other so heavily,” he said. “In the past, we played in a (different) system. This time, there’s more accountability. You’re responsible to play your role to the best of your abilities. When you have that kind of load, you don’t want to let your teammates down.”
One thing he will not speak much of — his 2010-2011 season when he saw his production drop to a career low 10.0 points per game.
“It is over,” English said. “I’m focusing on now and trying to get better each day. Last year was last year. It’s out of my mind.”
English credits his teammates and Haith for helping restructure his confidence. Haith, who heavily recruited English during his time at Miami three years ago, has put an emphasis on building relationships with his team since taking over.
“Guys got to know you believe in them,” he said. “Trust is such an important word in building a basketball team. I did have a little bit of that relationship with Kim prior to being here, so I think that helped. But encouraging him to just be himself is the biggest thing with Kim. Watching him last year, he tried to do too much at times. Just be Kim English. Just be yourself and you’ll be fine. Just be Kim English.”
English was occasionally out-muscled Friday. But he looked fearless by taking three charges. “Winning plays,” Haith calls them. He lifted his team with 19 points, going 5-9 behind the arc.
“It feels great to be back to my normal self,” he said after the game.