If only for Missouri fans, it very well may be one of the more enduring photos of last season's NCAA Tournament.
Hand-picked off the bench by head coach Mike Anderson to replace the injured J.T. Tiller on the free-throw line, freshman guard Kim English coolly stepped to the stripe and knocked down each of his two shots to seal the Tigers' second-round victory over Marquette.
So coolly, in fact, that English was captured standing at the line with his shooting arm extended skyward while his left arm rested harmlessly at his side.
It was the kind of posture more befitting of a senior who had been there and done that—not a freshman playing in his second tournament game. But, considering what English had done earlier, perhaps he deserved the right to strike a pose.
With MU down by six midway through the first half against the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles, English awaited his call on the bench. When it came, the native of Baltimore didn't disappoint, knocking down three three-pointers en route to 15 points in a stretch of four and a half minutes to give the Tigers a commanding lead that would set the tone for the victory.
It was a breakout performance that caught the attention of players and coaches on both sides, not to mention the country. But larger challenges would lie ahead for English.
With its top three leading scorers from last season—seniors DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons, and Matt Lawrence—embarking on journeys elsewhere, Missouri (4-2) needed to tap new sources of production heading into 2009-10.
English was an obvious choice. And, just like he did during the madness of March, he's taken advantage of his opportunity.
At first, it seemed as if English wasn't ready for his new-found role as one of MU's premiere scorers. In the season opener, the sophomore sniper made only one of his nine shots from the field—including a dismal 0-for-5 from beyond the arc—to finish with a modest six points. He also turned the ball over five times.
Consider it a wake-up call.
In the five games since his inauspicious shooting debut to the season, English has averaged 19.2 points, including career-highs of 25 and 26 points against Texas Pan-American and Chattanooga in back-to-back games, and hasn't surrendered the ball more than twice in any one game.
For the season, English is leading the Tigers with 17 points a game and has scored 44 more points than any other MU player. Guard Zaire Taylor and forward Laurence Bowers have each scored 58 points this season.
Even in defeat, English has flashed brilliance while budding into an offensive star. In MU's losses to Richmond and Vanderbilt, English lead the Tigers in scoring, registering 14 and 20 points against the Spiders and Commodores, respectively.
To English, his hot start is no surprise.
"It hadn't been bothering me," English said of the early shooting woes that precluded his recent scoring barrage. "I think I'm always shooting well even if it's not going in."
English carries himself with the quiet confidence you want in a leading scorer, but his success has been bred by work ethic and is not lost on some sort of offensive arrogance.
In his brief time in the MU program, English has received a reputation for literally living at the gym, often choosing to sleep at Mizzou Arena when he wasn't on the floor perfecting his array of shots.
Still, despite his noticeable contributions and increased role in the offense, English insists this Missouri team's greatest attribute may be its depth. Eight different players have started a game this season, while seven, not including English, have averaged at least six points.
"We don't have any starters," said English, who has started twice while earning many of his 22.3 minutes per game off the bench. "We have 13 guys that go out there and play. Coach always changes it up in practice, so we can all play with anyone."
Each member of this MU roster will tell that no player is above the team, and that includes English, who currently leads the Tigers in eight different offensive statistical categories.
But next to senior defensive specialist J.T. Tiller , who is the undisputed heartbeat of the squad, English appears to be getting closer to fulfilling roles that go beyond being Missouri's top offensive threat.
But, then again, that's something that may have begun in March.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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