Motivating Force

Just about every basketball team in the nation has a pregame ritual involving a huddle. For some, it's a simple get-together. Others have a more elaborate process. At West Virginia, the focus of that ring is sophomore forward John Flowers.

Right before the teams are announced and the national anthem is sung, the Mountaineers form a huddle to get excited as spark a final bit of emotion for the game. Creating a ring that sways back and forth, WVU encircles Flowers, who is counted on to make sure that his team's spirit is high before the start of the game. His words and actions change from game to game. He will quote from movies, coaches, or any other source he can think of to get his teammates hyped up. The sophomore switches his material from time to time to keep things fresh, and make sure that the routine doesn't become boring. Earlier this year, Flowers used a boxing theme, throwing imaginary punches around the circle. Against Marshall, he assumed an air of confidence, showing the tenacity and swagger that the Mountaineer coaches want to see from the team. Sometimes it's pre-planned, and sometimes it's off the cuff.

"I usually switch it up but I haven't been lately. I decide what I'm going to do for it during warm-ups," Flowers admitted.

The irony in all of this is that Flowers isn't the brashest player on the team, or one given to trash talk or motivational speeches. He certainly didn't volunteer to be in the circle for the pre-game pump-up. He was thrown into the job by former WVU point guard Darris Nichols, who in yet another subtle demonstration of leadership skills identified a player that needed to expand his horizons.

"(I did it for the first time) last year before the Marshall game. Darris Nichols threw me in the center and I've been doing it ever since," Flowers said. "I think to do it you have to be hyper and exciting to get the team fired up."

That action may have helped him come out of his shell a bit, and become a bit more assertive. Flowers thinks that he does have the characteristics suited for the job, and that in taking on the role of motivator he may also be helping himself. His teammates also recognize that his pregame routine helps get their spirits up before they hit the court.

"He always hypes us up. We form our circle around him and he just starts dancing and gets us really hyped up before the game. Its fun, " said freshman forward Kevin Jones with a laugh.

Junior forward Da'Sean Butler agreed.

"John (Flowers) just dances and gets everyone energized and excited right before the game starts. " So if you're one of those people who waits until tipoff to take your seat, you may want to come a few minute early to the next home game to see the entertaining pregame show put on by Flowers and the rest of the Mountaineers. While it certainly isn't the most important aspect of preparation for a game, it serves as a focal point for the team. It's game time, and time to put away everything else and focus on the task at hand for the next two hours. In the rugged Big East, that sort of intensity has to be present every night, or there won't be a bookend celebration at the end of the contest.

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