Wed Jul 21 10:33pm EDT
Unless you're a diehard Kansas fan bred to dislike all things gold and black, Missouri star Kim English should be one of your favorite players to watch in college basketball next season.
Not only is English a potential All-Big 12 selection, the charismatic, hard-working junior guard is also a delight on twitter and with the media.
English recently joined KFRU-Radio in Columbia for two hours during which he addressed everything from Carmelo Anthony's wedding, to why he sits in the back of every class, to his favorite buzzer-beater of all time. Here are three of my favorite anecdotes English shared during the interview:
Behind the scenes during UNI-Kansas (click to listen)
As Kansas fought for its NCAA tournament life in the second round against Northern Iowa last March, English admitted that he was actually pulling for the rival Jayhawks to advance.
"Most people on our team really do not like Kansas. In fact, it's close to hate," English said. "But I want the Big 12 to win. And my bracket had Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas and Baylor, so for my bracket's sake and the sake of the Big 12 -- not that I love Kansas because I don't at all -- I wanted Kansas to beat Northern Iowa."
English and his teammates watched the Kansas game from the back room of a swanky restaurant in Buffalo, N.Y. the night before Missouri faced West Virginia in a second-round game of its own. The boisterous eruption from the Tigers contingent was so loud after Ali Faroukmanesh's game-clinching three-pointer that other restaurant patrons were looking around to see what all the shouting was about.
English's bracket was shot and he felt bad for his friends at Kansas, but he understood the significance of the Northern Iowa victory for Missouri fans.
Free throws to beat Marquette (click to listen)
When J.T. Tiller got hurt late in Missouri's second-round NCAA tournament victory over Marquette in 2009, English admitted it never dawned on him that he might be called upon to shoot the game-clinching free throws in his teammate's place.
English recalled spending most of the huddle rubbing teammate Marcus Denmon's arm to get it warm and encouraging him to send the Tigers to the Sweet 16.
"I'm not even looking at the coaches having a meeting," English said. "I'm still rubbing Marcus' arm saying, 'You're going to knock these down. We're not going back to Columbia. We're going to the Sweet 16. You can do this Marcus.' And then Coach A says, 'Kimmie, go.' I was like, 'huh?' He says, 'Go shoot the free throws.'"
English had been practically unconscious in the first half, but the freshman had spent most of the second half on the bench after missing a few shots after halftime. Furthermore, he was only a 65 percent foul shooter on the season, typically not the type of clip that a "pinch shooter" would usually have.
Of course, English calmly knocked down the foul shots and sealed a 83-79 come-from-behind victory. Then afterward it occurred to him that every CBS affiliate in the country had broken into its game to show English's free throws.
"If I would have thought of that walking to the free throw line, I might have shot two air-balls," English said. "On the plane ride home, I walked up to Coach Watkins and told him coach, 'I was thinking about banking in those foul shots left-handed.' It was a good time."
Connecting with Missouri fans (click to listen)
English's attempts to connect with Missouri fans has sometimes taken the Baltimore native to remote portions of the state.
A few fans asked via facebook if English would join their pick-up game one time, so he, Keith Dewitt and Zaire Taylor climbed in a car and drove more than 70 miles to meet them in tiny Stover, Missouri. The competition wasn't memorable, but the experience was.
"Some kids watched. Some old ladies came out and watched us play and took pictures," English said. "It was really fun."
Occasionally, however, English's generosity takes him into hostile territory. Kansas' Mario Little and Elijah Johnson persuaded English and Missouri teammate Laurence Bowers to work a camp with them in Pittsburg, Kansas by claiming the town was right on the border between the two states.
"We get into Pittsburg and it's Jayhawk Avenue, Rock Chalk Street, Kansas Way," English recalled. "I'm like, 'Yo this ain't no on the line.' So then we walk into camp the next morning and you could hear crickets. It's all blue and red shirts and two kids with gold and black shirts on. All the little Kansas kids are looking at us like, 'What are you doing here? Go back where you're from.'"