June 24, 2016
John Flowers may be a world traveler these days, but Morgantown, West Virginia, has become like a second home to the former Mountaineer roundball standout.
For Flowers, Almost Heaven really is heaven.
“I love it here and I love seeing Morgantown growing as it is,” he said recently. “Every time I come back there is something new here. I get to come back and see the (current) players and work out with them and work out myself to do what I do.”
What Flowers does is play basketball professionally, most recently in Germany. This past year, he averaged 12 points and 2.9 rebounds per game playing for Medi Bayreuth, located in the southeastern part of the country.
Prior to that, Flowers played professionally in France and Japan since his final season with the Mountaineers in 2011. In the last five years, Flowers, a Waldorf, Maryland, native, has truly become a citizen of the world.
“It’s a lot of fun, just learning the different languages and cultures and seeing all of Europe and all of the world, basically,” he said. “My first year when I went to Japan that was my first time out of the country ever and that was a culture shock. That really helped me prepare for anything.”
Flowers has become quite used to taking jolts to his system, starting at the end of his senior season at St. Mary’s Ryken High when, shortly after committing to West Virginia, he learned coach John Beilein was taking the Michigan job.
In the snap of a finger Flowers not only lost his college coach but, quite possibly, his spot on West Virginia’s roster when new coach Bob Huggins came aboard.
“It was a good thing that my mother (Pam) was there to help guide me through that because she was an All-American basketball player (at Louisiana Tech) and she went through everything,” he recalled. “She loved Huggs when he came to visit our house. Basically I was thinking, ‘Did Huggs want me?’”
Huggins did want Flowers, and when Flowers made another trip to WVU and felt the love from Mountaineer Nation, any notion he had of following Beilein to Michigan to wear the Maize and Blue instead of the Gold and Blue ended.
Athletically, Flowers was a natural fit for Huggins’ style of play, his length, jumping ability and skills around the rim apparent from the moment he stepped on the floor.
But stepping out to shoot jump shots was a totally different story.
One year, when NBA legend Jerry West returned to campus to work Huggins’ Fantasy Camp and noticed Flowers shooting off to the side, he asked Huggins if it was okay if he gave Flowers a few shooting tips.
Getting hoop advice from Mr. Clutch is about like having the Maharishi slip you the answer during a helicopter ride with the Beatles.
“I said ‘be my guest,’” Huggins recalled. “John’s shot was less than picturesque at that time.”
Flowers worked on his game to the point where he became a key reserve on West Virginia’s Final Four team in 2010. He was the guy Huggins relied on that season for instant energy on the floor by grabbing a big rebound, getting a steal or a clutch tip-in basket.
But it took a while for Flowers to get to that point.
“Looking back now, I was just playing wild – like a wild animal whenever I got into the game,” Flowers chuckled. “(Huggins) used to just tell me to calm down and relax because I was just all over the place. I used to love being in the game in front of all those fans. It was just amazing.”
About midway through his freshman season, a hustling Flowers made an incredible block from behind to help key West Virginia’s 20-point home win over Syracuse, and from that point on he had a spot in Huggins’ rotation.
“That’s when Huggs started to like me a little bit,” he joked.
During Flowers’ senior season in 2011 he averaged a career-best 9.2 points per game, while shooting a drastically improved 47.3 percent from the floor. He even made 21 3s, proving that people who do heed West’s hoop advice usually get results.
In fact, this past season while playing for his pro team in Germany, Flowers made 38.2 percent of his 152 3-point field goal attempts, which is slightly lower than the 50 percent John claimed he made.
Flowers has always been known as a jokester and his twitter account jflow41 became so popular during his Mountaineer playing career a Pittsburgh morning radio show used to read his tweets on almost a daily basis.
This summer, Flowers is in Morgantown keeping in shape for another season of professional basketball, most likely in Europe once again this year.
Flowers said he has played against former WVU teammates Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones, and he also watched Alex Ruoff’s team play Butler’s team in France last year.
“We hung out afterward and brought a little Morgantown to Germany,” Flowers said.
Later this summer, Flowers is planning to once again give a little bit back to his second home. Last year, Flowers came up with the great idea of having a West Virginia University Basketball Alumni Game with a portion of the proceeds from it benefitting a local charity.
Flowers said he got the idea while hanging out with Butler one night in Morgantown.
“We figured, ‘why don’t we just do it?’” he recalled. “Da’Sean has really helped a lot, as has Coach (Larry) Harrison. Most of the guys from the Final Four team still come back for the summers and most of the people want to see them. And I like learning about experiences of West Virginia players that played before so I thought, this would be a good time for everyone.”
“John just loves basketball,” Huggins said. “It’s neat he’s here, Truck (Bryant) is here, Devin is here, Alex is here, Joe (Alexander) is in and out, KJ, Da’, and it’s great for our young guys to see how much they appreciate the people that are here and how much they appreciated being here.”
Admittedly, there were those who were skeptical of how Flowers was going to pull it off, what charity the proceeds would benefit and how the money would be distributed.
But after last year’s successful game at Morgantown High, Flowers was able to deliver a check for $6,100 to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund – Huggins’ No. 1 charity that has raised nearly $1.5 million for cancer research since its inception.
Flowers’ second WVU alumni game will be played on Saturday, July 30, at Morgantown High. Helping out Flowers is his old St. Mary’s coach Ryken coach, Dave Tallman, who recently led the Mohigans to a state title this past spring.
“We were going to do it at the Coliseum but it’s under construction now,” Flowers said. “It was good last year. It was a great turnout. It was my first time putting this together and it was a great experience.”
This July, Flowers is anticipating even more former Mountaineer players returning.
“The guys did a really good job committing to it,” he said. “We only had three drop out last year and hopefully we can get some new guys in and have a lot of fun with it just like we did last year. We sent out an email to everyone who bought tickets online and there weren’t too many complaints.”
Flowers said he’s got commitments from Mountaineer teammates Mike Gansey and Patrick Beilein, plus, overseas standout forward Marcus Goree, a Gale Catlett-era player. And, he’s got his eye on a few more players.
“I’m looking for Kevin Pittsnogle if anyone has seen him,” Flowers said. “I think he’s hibernating, but I would love to have him back.”
Indeed, it would be great for Mountaineer fans to see someone get “Pittsnogled” once again from 3, just as it’s great that John Flowers has chosen to make Morgantown his second home.