Kimmie English Shines Brightest Among Mizzou's Young Core

Peter FleischerSenior Writer IJanuary 15, 2009

It's like a test question on the ACT. Missouri has five young freshmen. Which one would you expect to be a star?

One of the frosh scored 36 in his first game in front of his home fans. Another freshman is the biggest player on the team. A third has a famous basketball family, and the fourth has already had the top play on SportsCenter.

And the fifth? Well, he might be quietly turning into the best of them all.

Kimmie English, a guard-forward hybrid from the basketball hotbed of Baltimore, might not have the dazzling dunking ability of teammate and fellow freshman Laurence Bowers, and his debut in black and gold might not have been as spectacular as Missouri native Marcus Denmon, but there's no denying Columbia's love for Kimmie.

First is his work ethic. English has gotten to be friendly with the late night staff that works and cleans up Missouri's gyms, because he has been known to sleep at the practice facility to get in extra jumpers and improve his game. After an off-the-court incident robbed Mizzou of their best player, Stefhon Hannah, last season, how could Tiger fans not love a young player that is so hungry to get better?

Then there's the silky smooth jumper. English has great size at a chiseled 6'6", but it's his shot that has Tiger fans screaming. Although Coach Mike Anderson has expressed a desire for Kimmie to better understand when to unleash his jumper, there is no doubting that when he's on, he's deadly.

In a game against California earlier this year, English caught fire and demonstrated just what he's capable of. He scored an amazing 14 straight points for the Tigers against a quality Pac-10 opponent in the second half en route to a 93-66 blowout. At times against the Golden Bears, English was launching shots from way beyond NBA range...and they weren't even grazing the rim on their way down.

But it was after the Cal game that English really seemed to shine. Talking with reporters, he made sure to maintain his always respectful demeanor, but didn't hesitate to make a joke or two, reminding the media that "defense" was the top priority on any Mike Anderson team. His friendly and polite attitude has allowed older teammates to embrace him, and the fans to feel like he's accessible.

Recently after a disappointing conference opening dud against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, English was inserted into the starting lineup in senior Matt Lawrence's place, and he might not see the bench any time soon. Kimmie had 12 points, two assists, and three steals in just 14 minutes, as the Tigers absolutely crushed the Colorado Buffs, 107-62.

English has the athleticism and physicality that Lawrence will never have. His versatility allows Anderson to put him at any number of spots, sometimes having Kimmie take the ball up, other times guarding an opposing team's forward with his impressive length and speed.

With seniors Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll taking the majority of shots and scoring in the Missouri lineup this season, it might be a while before you see English really become a star. But it's no coincidence that English is the first of Missouri's fab five freshmen to see the floor as a starter, so don't be surprised if he's the first to truly make his own name.