John Flowers grabbed a rebound Friday afternoon at the YMCA of Southern West Virginia, took one dribble and soared toward the rim. His rim-rattling slam shook the gym and brought about a chorus of oooooos from the 7- through 16-year-old campers watching the action.
More importantly, the dunk, just ahead of a layup by one of the campers, kept the former West Virginia University basketball star from elimination in a game of knockout that marked the end of the first of three days of instruction at the KJ5 Basketball Camp, hosted by Flowers’ former WVU teammate and current Cleveland Cavalier Kevin Jones.
Whether it’s against a 5-foot-3 13-year-old or a 7-foot Georgetown Hoya, Flowers has always been a competitor, and it’s that drive that has the 6-foot-7 Waldorf, Md., native still pushing to live out his dream.
“I’m not where I want to be,” said Flowers, who played for WVU from 2008 through 2011 and was a key member of the 2010 Final Four team. “My dream and goal is to be able to play in the NBA. Hopefully I can be there with KJ one day. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do to get there.”
Doing what he’s supposed to do includes playing professionally overseas. In 2012, he played in Japan, and this past season he was in France, where he averaged a team-high 20.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for Denain Voltaire.
It’s been a much different role for Flowers, who was known more for his defense at WVU and left Morgantown averaging just 5.2 points per game.
“If Huggs (WVU head coach Bob Huggins) would have told me to score, I could have scored,” said Flowers. “But that wasn’t really my role. I played defense and took pride in it. I left the scoring up to KJ, Truck (Bryant), Da’Sean (Butler) and those guys. But I’ve always been a scorer.”
Don’t think for a second that’s a criticism of his college coach. Flowers didn’t hesitate when asked if filling that role for the Mountaineers made him a better player.
“In high school I was a scorer, but when I came to college, Huggs expanded my game to be more than that,” said Flowers. “It definitely made me a better all-around player. I’m glad Huggs taught me to be a defensive player, so I could be more than one-dimensional.”
Flowers said he looks back to his days in Morgantown on an almost daily basis and will always remember those times as some of the best.
“I think about it all the time,” he said. “The Final Four. Big East champs. It (2010) was definitely a special year, and I’m glad I was a part of it.”
Flowers’ focus now, though, isn’t on looking back — in fact, he said his frustration level caused him to turn off the Mountaineers most of the times he watched them on television this season — but instead on looking forward.
He’s adjusted to the European game — saying the language barrier and a little homesickness were the only real obstacles — and he’s hoping his agent can find him a spot on an NBA summer league squad in the coming months.
Seeing Jones — whom he described as a brother — take the court for the Cavs is all the motivation he needs to keep working hard.
“He got an opportunity. I just have to find my opportunity,” said Flowers. “I have to keep working.”
“He has all the tools the NBA is looking for,” said Jones of Flowers’ NBA prospects. “He plays defense, he’s athletic and he has a high basketball IQ. He’ll make a team eventually. He just has to keep working to get the opportunity.”
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Between 50 and 60 campers signed up for the KJ5 Basketball Camp stop in Beckley, and around 40 showed up for the first day on Friday.
Camp director Gerard Jones — Kevin’s brother — said he expects more will show up for the final two sessions today and Sunday.
“The kids are loving it,” he said, explaining that along with the instruction from Jones, Flowers and Bryant, the campers get a reversible KJ5 jersey as well as an autographed T-shirt. “As long as they’re happy, that’s the important thing. Everybody has been very receptive in Beckley.”
“I just wanted to come out and support (Jones), and at the same time get to know the people of Beckley,” said Flowers of his motivation of serving as a camp instructor. “I like getting to know about different places in West Virginia, instead of just Morgantown, where fans get to see us a lot more. I like to meet the people.
“I have a lot of fun. I love doing camps like this. When I was little, I went to a lot of camps, and I had a lot of fun doing them. I just love to work with the kids and teach them how to have fun playing the game.”