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Coming of age

A close-up look at Tiger seniors

mizzou basketball seniors
Serious seniority. Seniors account for half of the 2011-12 Tigers’ roster. They are, from left, Steve Moore, Marcus Denmon, Jarrett Sutton, Kim English, Matt Pressey (front), Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers.  Photo by Kim English


Imagine the future: It is Feb. 29, 2012, senior day at Mizzou Arena. Fans are honoring the efforts of seven student-athletes, five of whom have attended MU during four years of unprecedented basketball success and transformation. From the growing pains of learning a former coach’s up-tempo system, to the triumph of an Elite Eight and a Big 12 Tournament championship, to the uncertainty of coaching changes and conference speculation, it has been a wild, but winning, ride. Now led by Coach Frank Haith, who has spent the last seven seasons at the University of Miami (Fla.), the fourth-year Tigers are just 24 victories from breaking the school record for career wins at 100. These seven seniors have earned our applause.

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Kim English

By his own admission, Kim English talks too much. That might be why his usually grinning mouth is a constant target for incoming microphones and voice recorders at press events and postgame proceedings.

Ever since viewing a memorably boring televised conversation with the stars of his favorite NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens, English has been purposefully colorful.

“The interview was over and I was still staring at the TV like, what was that?” English says. “It was the worst interview I had ever seen in my life. I never want
to leave the fans feeling the way I felt that day.”

English has generated some unforgettable quotes in four years. As a freshman, he guaranteed an eventual national championship. Earlier this year, when asked about how the team would reconcile the departure of Coach Mike Anderson, he confidently proclaimed, “We’ll reconcile by winning.”

It has been well documented how the extroverted English overcame a stuttering impediment during his younger years and embraced his gift of gab. But pay special attention to his eyes — they tell the real story.

“Before the game and at halftime, I look into all of my teammates’ eyes,” English says. “I take a second and stare at every person so I can see if they’re ready, nervous, focused. There’s an unspoken bond between us.”

Marcus Denmon

When cousin Marion Denmon died after he was shot on Dec. 7, 2010, Marcus Denmon struggled through the intense process of mourning. The once-inseparable relatives were best friends, raised by grandmother Bertha Denmon along with nine other cousins and siblings on 12th Street in Kansas City, Mo.

So although the word “family” is often used to describe a team’s bond, it has a special meaning for Denmon.

“My teammates really took on that role and helped me when I needed them most,” says the All-Big 12 guard and the Tigers’ leading scorer. “They’re like my brothers, and I know the ins and outs of their characters.”

Denmon spent the offseason bonding with another team — Team USA. The international squad finished 7-1, and the preseason All-American led the team in steals with 15.

That level of success breeds confidence, but in Denmon’s case, his swagger is usually all in good fun. Take his video game skills, for example. He talks the talk when it comes to his favorite, “Call of Duty.”

“I doubt anyone reading this could handle me,” says Denmon, who even thinks he could beat professional gaming wiz and Mizzou alumnus, Greg Miller (see story on Page 55). “I bet he is good, but I bet he’d have his lunch pail if he played me.”

Steve Moore

For most of the day, Steve Moore is a gentle giant. He’s always joking around in the locker room, and he’s even a bit of a romantic, enjoying movies, local restaurants and home-cooked meals with his girlfriend of three years.

But when fans yell “Steeeve,” it brings the inner-beast out of the 6-foot-9, 267-pounder. Offensively, he wasn’t always that beastly.

“I didn’t start playing basketball until the 7th grade,” Moore says. “I had height but absolutely no skill.”

The story of his personal transformation goes back even farther. Both Moore’s grandmother and mother died before he was 18, and he was adopted by a man named Kent (Reed). It might be one of the reasons why he’s such a fan of the Man of Steel.

“I really love Superman — I mean, I am Superman,” says Moore, who had the hero’s symbol tattooed on his left shoulder in 2009. “My (biological) dad had a Superman necklace, and when my mother died, he came to the funeral from Chicago and it was on his neck. Right before he left, he took it off and put it on me. That really touched me and kind of turned things around for me.”

Laurence Bowers

L-Bo’s season ended before it began on Oct. 3, 2011, when the high-flying senior forward suffered a torn ACL during a pickup game. The team’s resident renaissance man, Laurence Bowers, had surgery on Oct. 18, and he will be eligible to return for the 2012–13 campaign after taking a medical redshirt. He’ll have to keep himself busy with his myriad other interests, however, which include sketching and singing.

He and his vocal group Suite 1050 (named for his residential hall address) opened for former Mizzou star and singer Kareem Rush at the Blue Note in May 2011, and Bowers can play the piano, too.

“I’m still kind of in shock right now, but I know this will give me some time to tune up on those outside-of-basketball skills,” Bowers says. “I’m just trying to find some kind of pros and not all cons in a situation like this.”

Jarrett Sutton, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey

The remaining seniors have spent less time in the spotlight, but are crucial to the Tigers’ title potential. Jarrett Sutton, a walk-on guard from Kansas City, Mo., earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in May 2011. He returns as a graduate student, a fan favorite and one of the team’s more subtle leaders.

“When freshmen first come here, sometimes they have a little bit of a swagger to them,” Sutton says. “I’ve seen that smack them right in the face because you get humbled quickly at this level. So you’re highly recruited. That’s great, but we’re here to win a championship.”

Ricardo Ratliffe is another forward who began his basketball development later in life. Growing up in Hampton, Va., his first love was track, which explains his uncanny endurance for a man of his stature (6-foot-9, 240 pounds).

“My neighbor challenged me at basketball in the 7th grade because he played and I always beat him on the track,” says Ratliffe, who transferred to Mizzou in 2010 from Central Florida Community College in Ocala, Fla. “I ended up beating him the first time I ever played, then I started playing every day.”

Senior guard Matt Pressey can’t remember not having a basketball in his hands. His father Paul Pressey is a former coach, NBA player and lifelong friend of Anderson. A transient upbringing toughened Matt and his younger brother, sophomore guard Phil, as they bounced from San Antonio to Boston to Florida to Milwaukee to Dallas and now Columbia.

“A lot of guys on this team were heartbroken because they had been under Coach A for longer than I had,” Pressey says. “But coaches leaving is the nature of the business.”

Coaches arriving is also the nature of the business. As the Tigers fast-forward into a highly anticipated 2011–12 campaign with a new staff to guide them, the senior leadership will ultimately determine this team’s legacy.

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