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Sweet 16: Kim English, Missouri

Kim English wasn't surprised when Mike Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas. And while many fans were perplexed when the Tigers tabbed Miami coach Frank Haith as Anderson's replacement, English stayed "even-keeled" as always.

Part of that reaction is just the nature of English's personality. The former Randallstown star says he never gets too high or too low. But English's familiarity with Haith -- who recruited him heavily to play for the Hurricanes four years ago -- also played into his response to the coach's hiring.

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"[Haith] called me when he first got the job," English recalled. "He said, 'I told you I'd be your coach someday.'"

English, who said he "almost committed to Miami," learned more about Haith from his former Cecil Kirk teammate Jack McClinton, an All-ACC performer for the Hurricanes. With that knowledge in mind, English made it his personal mission to help Mizzou fans come to believe what he already did – that Haith was the right man for the job.

"Fans over here were giving him a hard time," English said. "Here in the Midwest, all they know of the ACC is Duke and Carolina. They didn't have any clue who he was. Miami's league record wasn't stellar. They were kind of upset. That name kind of came out of the blue for them. The next day at the press conference, I kind of had to settle people down here and let them know. I think they all wanted [VCU's] Shaka Smart, but we had to get someone who was a proven BCS recruiter, and he is that. He is a really, really good recruiter. He's been a recruiter at Texas, Texas A&M and Miami. He definitely is a good man for the job."

Throughout his three years in Columbia, English has taken pride in his ability to lead. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior is one of the most quotable Tigers, a social-media superstar, a campus leader, and one of the Big 12's top guards. The roots of English's development into a nationally recognized college basketball player can be traced back to Baltimore.English didn't pick up the game seriously until he was 13. He started out at Mount Royal, competing with Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech), Sean Mosley (Maryland) and Donte Greene (Sacramento Kings, Syracuse) on a regular basis. English moved over to Cecil Kirk at 15, teaming with Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies, UConn), Chester Frazier (Illinois), Jahmar Young (New Mexico State), Jamal Barney (Loyola), Paris Carter (New Mexico State) and several other future Division I players.

"I was just blessed to play with that wealth of talent and just travel and learn from the best players," English said. "And my dad was really the biggest part of my learning curve, being a sponge for whatever he taught me. I just kind of took what he said as law."

English started his high school career at Towson Catholic before transferring to Randallstown and leading the Rams to the Class 2A state championship in 2007. The second-team All-Metro selection headed to Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., for a post-grad year, and subsequently became a consensus high-major recruit. English ended up choosing Missouri over Cincinnati, Miami and Tennessee, among others. With three NCAA tournament appearances in three years, English has never regretted that choice.

"I wanted to go somewhere I could leave a legacy," English said. "Right now, it's all going well. I'm part of the winningest class in school history with 77 wins. All that stuff is kind of expected in my eyes. You're remembered by championships. That's my focus. That's my goal. That's what I worry about – being remembered for championships."

Freshman season set the bar for success pretty high. English appeared in all 38 games, starting 13 and averaging 6.5 points for the Tigers, who won 31 games, went 18-0 at home and made it to the Elite Eight. English followed that debut campaign with a strong sophomore season. He led the Tigers in scoring at 14 points per game, and was named to the All-Big 12 third team for his efforts. Missouri ended its season with a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament to West Virginia.

The 2010-11 season, meanwhile, fell short of English's expectations. The junior averaged 10 points and averaged a career-high 25.8 minutes. But the Tigers, who started the season 14-1, fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Cincinnati.

"Last year was real freelancing, loosey-goosey," English said. "But that style worked my first two years when we didn't have as much talent. Last season, we had seven or eight guys who could get buckets on their own. That much freedom had us bumping heads a lot and not really focusing on defense."

Early returns on the Haith era at Missouri have been positive in English's opinion. Adapting to Haith's system – which English said has more structure and places a greater emphasis on defense than Anderson's system – has been challenging. But the players have responded positively, and English's hopes for success are as high as ever.

How he is remembered clearly matters to English. His carefully cultivated legacy is an impressive one so far. But it should come as no surprise to anyone that's followed English's career that leaving the program in an even better place than how it was when he arrived is of the utmost importance to him. From what he's seen so far this season, making that happen is a realistic goal.

"It could be the best of my four years here – that's saying a lot," English said. "We were an Elite Eight team that won 31 games my freshman year. Next season we got to the second round. Last season was a crazy-talented team. We started the season Top 15, got to No. 8 in the country, and then we fell apart. We had so much talent, but just didn't jell together. Our chemistry now is better. We could easily be better than those three teams. But we have to do it every single day in practice. We really are preparing the right way. I'm just excited to get started."

The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.

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Previous Sweet 16 selections:

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U.S. Presswire photo of Kim English by Denny Medley / Feb. 5, 2011

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