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West Virginia’s John Flowers brings West Virginia basketball back together again

By Tom Ballato

John Flowers started bringing West Virginia alumni and fans together each year for an alumni game. He is back at it for the fifth year, but this time is uniting a fanbase and reuniting players for The Basketball Tournament (TBT).

Flowers spent four year playing under Bob Huggins at West Virginia. Each year his role increased and he eventually became a starter his senior season. During his time in West Virginia, Flowers played alongside Joe Alexander, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, Da’Sean Butler and many other talented players that ended up going to the NBA or overseas to play professionally. His time on the court had to be earned. West Virginia was an annual NCAA Tournament team during Flowers’ tenure. He was known for his defense and rebounding and drew tough defensive assignments each game.

After Flowers graduated from West Virginia, he went undrafted and started a professional career overseas. His game has expanded since we last saw him in a Mountaineers uniform. He has played in six countries so far and is having success.

 

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Photo shared by John Flowers.

Recently, Flowers announced West Virginia’s entry into the 2019 TBT Tournament. Something both college basketball and West Virginia fans should be excited about. The roster has yet to be revealed, but I’m sure we will get to see some former West Virginia greats together again! John has given so much to the West Virginia program. When asked what his favorite memory at West Virginia was, he replied, “Not one in particular is better than the other, but miss just walking around campus just being a student.”

What was it like to play for Bob Huggins at West Virginia?

My overall experience playing with coach Huggins was great. He led us to the NCAA tournament every year, Big East Championship, and Final Four. I learned a lot from him on and off the court. He taught me about responsibility and manning up and not to blame others for what I can control.

Your role gradually increased each year you were at West Virginia. You eventually became a consistent starter your senior year. What work did you have to put in to eventually become a starter? Does coach Huggins believe that freshman, regardless of talent, have to earn their minutes?

Huggins believes that anyone on the team freshman-senior has to earn the right to be on the court. I knew I just had to be patient and wait my turn as I was playing behind NBA draft picks such as (Devin) Ebanks, Da’Sean (Butler), and Joe Alexander. I just tried to have a positive impact in the game whenever I was in by bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

Who was the hardest player you had to guard or matchup you looked forward to in college?

Two people that come to my mind are MarShon Brooks, who we called “Little Kobe”, he was great, and Norris Cole.

You played in the old Big East that arguably could have been the best conference in the county year in and year out. What was it like to play conference games each year in the Big East?

It was great playing in the Big East, I loved it. You always had to bring your A game every night. I enjoyed playing against the best.

During your time at West Virginia, you brought defense and rebounding to the team. What part of your game have you improved on that you may not have displayed at West Virginia?

I definitely have gotten to display my offense a lot more playing overseas. I was top 10 in my league in scoring my rookie year in Japan and I led the Pro B France league in scoring my second year.

Where have you played overseas and where are you currently playing?

I played in Japan for 2 years, France for 4 years, then Germany, Venezuela and Mexico. I am currently in Argentina on my 8th year as a pro.

From what I’ve read, you are in charge of bringing back alumni for alumni games at West Virginia?

Yeah I started a company J FLOW Entertainment and we are coming up on the 5th year of the alumni game. Playing in front of our fans again and with my brothers is always fun. We also have raised over 25,000 (dollars) for various charities over the past 4 years We have big things coming for this summer along with playing in the TBT Tournament.

I saw you are creating a West Virginia TBT alumni team. Have you started recruiting and what can we expect from a West Virginia alumni team?

Yes, we will play in the TBT this year,  I am very excited. We have named our coaches, Joe Mazzulla, Jarrod West, and Billy Hahn. They are getting their rosters together. We plan on having exhibition games in Beckley and Charleston (West Virginia) to get us ready. It will be a lot of fun playing with my brothers again. I can’t wait.

Former St. John’s/Overseas Elite guard Paris Horne

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Photo taken by Wendell Cruz.

Paris Horne burst onto the scene at St. John’s in 2007. He played in all 30 games as a freshman and became someone coach Norm Roberts relied on off the bench. His sophomore year, Paris played in 33 out of 34 games and started 31 of them. He led the team in scoring with 14.6 ppg (points per game) a big jump from 5.1 ppg, which he averaged as a freshman. 

As a junior, Paris averaged 9.1 ppg and played in all of the Red Storm’s games. His senior year, St. John’s decided on a coaching change and hired Steve Lavin and assistant Mike Dunlap. That year St. John’s finished with a 21-12 record and made the NCAA Tournament. Horne started 20 out of 33 games and was a key part of St. John’s run to the tournament. That year they defeated Georgetown, Duke, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Villanova who were all ranked teams. They finished ranked 18th overall at the end of the season. 

After graduating, Paris went on to play professionally overseas. He had a stint with the Charlotte Bobcats’ summer league team which was coached by former St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap. He was later waived by the Bobcats, but got valuable experience during his time with the team.

Paris has enjoyed success the past four summers playing in the The Basketball Tournament (TBT) with Overseas Elite alongside former St. John’s teammates D.J. Kennedy and Justin Burrell. Overseas Elite has won four straight TBT championships and has gone undefeated since they began playing in 2015 with a record of 25-0. 

Paris improved every season he played at St. John’s. He was a great defender, slasher, and loved to soar above the rim. He had a great mid-range game and was a 35% percent three point shooter for his career at St. John’s, but he was known for hitting clutch shots. 


What made you decide to come to St. John’s and who was your mentor? 

Justin Burrell actually had a big part of me coming to St. John’s.  He was my roommate in Bridgeton Academy almost everyday he would sell me on coming to St. John and being apart of something new trying to bring St. John’s back on the map as far as making it to the tournament. I have always been a person that likes a challenge and I really felt like we could do it, so I made my decision to come. My father and family were my mentors. 

How would you describe your time at St. John’s?

My time at St. John’s was pretty much great. I enjoyed the full life of a college athlete!

Your senior year you guys beat a bunch of ranked teams and made the tournament, what was that experience like?

My senior year beating all those ranked teams felt so good. It felt even better because we knew that this was our last season together and unfortunately in our early years we had a few injuries to guys that could have changed things for us in the past . Playing in the NCAA Tournament was unbelievable, just playing in that type of atmosphere would get anyone pumped up for a game.

What is your fondest memory or game from your time at St. John’s?

My fondest moment may have been my sophomore year season. To see the jump we took as a team from our freshman year to our sophomore was incredible.  You could see the potential we had! My fondest memory of games would have to be the Duke game at the Garden our senior year and my sophomore year game against Rutgers when I missed 1 field goal. I went 12-13 I believe and I have a lot more but those are the two that stick out to me!

How did the team come together before the tournament after losing D.J. Kennedy to an injury?

After losing D.J. in the Big East Tournament it was tough for us, but coach Lavin and the staff always prepared us to be ready for anything and just have the next man step up . It just hurt because D.J. has always been apart of our success and he was a senior having a solid season so far for it to end like that made us more motivated.

Have you been following the recent teams at St. John’s and what are your thoughts on Mullin’s system?

Yes, I always follow the Johnnies and coach Mullin’s team. I like them a lot and the system is great to me. You can see the players really enjoy playing together. I think the system works for the guys he has. He’s putting everyone in a system that works to their strengths.

Coach Dunlap brought you in on a training camp invite with the Charlotte Bobcats. What did you learn about yourself and game playing against the competition and fighting for a roster spot?

I learned a lot during the time I spent with coach Dunlap and the the Charlotte Bobcats. At the time, I learned that you have to bring your game everyday because just about everyone in the league can play at a high level, so you have to work everyday to get advantage. I learned about myself that I could play at the level if I got the right timing and opportunity. During that time, I got to battle some of the guys like Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, Ramon Session, and a few other guys to help push my game to another level. I enjoyed every moment of it.  I thank coach Dunlap greatly for even giving me the chance to experience that!

Where have you played overseas since St. John’s and where are you playing now?

Since St. John’s, I played in Germany, Greece, Turkey, Japan, Romania, Finland, and Morocco. I’m currently in Morocco now!

D.J. Kennedy, Justin Burrell and yourself have had success with winning the TBT Tournament with Overseas Elite. How is it playing with your former teammates again and what do you think has been the key to your success?

Playing in the TBT with D.J. and Justin has been great for me. Those guys are like my brothers and being on the team together is pretty easy for us because we all know each other’s games for the most part. I think the key to success for us is just the unselfishness and all of us having the same common goal! Also having God on your side alway helps!

 

Written by Tom Ballato.