Kim English ran around the gym at Parkway North High School, shouting and smiling among 70 kids and seemingly having the time of his life.
This was Tuesday, the final session of his two-day basketball youth camp at the school, and English was determined to make it count. By the time it was all over, and English was finished answering questions and signing autographs for the campers, the former Missouri Tiger was thrilled.
“It was something I always wanted to do, just give back to kids,” English said. “Baltimore is obviously where I'm from, but Missouri is the place I view as home. This will be home the rest of my life. When I'm done playing, I'll live here, hopefully coach here. I just really wanted to take youth basketball in Missouri to another level.”
It's been a busy year for English, who has spent the last year playing for the NBA's Detroit Pistons. But once the Pistons' season came to a close in April, English — who called this the most important offseason of his career — still found the time to host five co-ed camps for kids in grade 3 through 12 throughout the state of Missouri.
“In Chillicothe we had 90 kids, Columbia we had 117, Kansas City had 150, Springfield had 140 and this one had 70,” English said. “I expected about 80 kids at each, with this being the first year.”
English, however, said he was not surprised by the strong turnout, overall, especially at his camp in Kansas City, which was held at Lee's Summit West.
“Kansas City is so good to Mizzou,” English said. “If there's anything Missouri that touches Kansas City, Mizzou fans will flock to it. That's why I love Kansas City so much, just because of that undying love.”
Aside from working his camps, however, English, 24, has been preoccupied with working on his game. After averaging 2.9 points in 41 games for the Pistons last season, he was released earlier this month the team decided to bring back 2004 NBA Finals MVP and team icon Chauncey Billups, a guard, on a two-year deal.
English, who was playing with the Pistons' summer-league team in Orlando at the time he was released, said Pistons general manager Joe Dumars went out of his way to break the news to him personally.
“He was in Detroit for Josh Smith's press conference and did not have to fly all the way back down to Orlando, but he did,” English said. “He came back down and told me they signed Chauncey, and that it was a numbers deal — he had the 15th spot (on the roster).”
English said he thanked Dumars for the opportunity — he spent most of last season picking the NBA Hall-of-Famer's brain — and promptly began working toward continuing his basketball career, using the news of his release as fresh motivation.
“In my life, I need motivation,” English said. “Sometimes I search for it. Sometimes I read message boards and look at Twitter and look at slights in the media and it just takes me to another level, so this was great for me. I view it as a blessingit definitely gave me a new chip on my shoulder to prove myself all over again.”
English said he learned a lot during his season in Detroit, however. He sees himself filling the role of a knockdown shooter and defender, and credits former Duke swingman and 14-year NBA veteran Corey Maggette for showing him the ropes.
“Corey Maggette, a seasoned veteran, showed me so much about being a shooting guard in this league,” English said. “We talked every day, every road tripwent out to eat, played 1-on-1 after practice. I just picked his brain as much as I could.”
Now English, an unrestricted free agent, hopes to latch on with another NBA team. Best-case scenario, he said, he gets a fully-guaranteed deal. But he could also end up with a partially-guaranteed deal or just a training-camp invite.
“I don't really want to name them because I don't want to be premature, but it's three or four teams that are showing interest,” English said. “But there's still some really good free agents out there — Gerald Henderson, Brandon Jennings, Gary Neal — so I feel like once that crop of combo guards sign, then it will be my time.”
In the meantime, English said he will keep working and wait to see what God has in store for him, even if the game of basketball eventually takes him overseas, like it did to former MU teammates Keith Ramsey, Marcus Denmon, Justin Safford and Leo Lyons.
“I'll play basketball for as long as I can play,” English said. “This is a multi-billion dollar industry around the world, so wherever I play, I'll take it as blessing that I'm doing what I love. Obviously, you want to be in the NBA and I feel like I'm an NBA player, but again, what's meant for me is meant for me.”