In a winter with what has felt like spring weather, sophomore guard Michael Flowers is blossoming into one of the top options coming off the bench for head coach Bo Ryan’s squad.”Right now he might be in the top-10 defensive players in the league,” Ryan said. “And offensively, his decision-making, his shot selection, and he’s feeling more confident now with his shot, that’s definitely improved too.”The goal-oriented Flowers says that while he may be a good defender now, he can always improve until he’s the best.”That is definitely a personal goal of mine,” Flowers said. “And it’s not a bad personal goal to have because if I do good that means that the team is doing good, but you know I just want to go out there and every time I step out on the court I want to produce for the team and I just want to make the team as successful as I possibly can.”Growing up dribbling a basketball around his house in Madison, the generally unselfish Flowers said playing in front of hometown fans weighed heavily on his decision to attend the University of Wisconsin — Madison and the chance to play for Ryan.”It’s the greatest thing in the world,” Flowers said. “I’m from around here and support and a lot of friendly faces and all, I mean if you’re comfortable, you’re going to have the potential to succeed.”Succeed he has, compiling 5.7 points per game, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists all while playing 24 minutes per contest. The Madison La Follette High graduate has appeared in all 20 games, and he is likely to play in tonight’s matchup against Illinois despite suffering a knee injury late in Saturday’s game against Michigan. “[Flowers] brings an intense competitive nature,” said Ryan. “Everyday at practice, diving for balls, taking charges, he just plays hard on every possession. And he does the same in the games — his intensity is always at a high level, he’s the student of the game, he’s gotten better in his decision making, in his reads, so it’s fun coaching guys who continually show that they have a passion for the game and that they want to get better and that’s Mike.”Even with all the positive impressions Flowers has made on his coaches with the intensity and mental toughness he brings to the court every night, he is hungry for more.”You know I’m never satisfied with my play,” Flowers said. “So you know, to crack the starting lineup is an individual goal that I’m working towards and it’s the best compliment that I can receive from the coaches and so I’m just trying to get the confidence up and have them trust me to be one of the five starters.”With more playing time have come higher expectations. Like the up-and-down game of basketball, the grind and pressure on Flowers can sometimes be too much to bear, so like many before him, Coach Ryan has helped him iron out the rough spots.”Bo Ryan has taught me to never have a bad day,” Flowers said. “As simple as that sounds, but it’s really hard to never have a bad day, I mean you face a lot of adversity out there on and off the court, you just have to handle it, and just the way you handle yourself and carry yourself about is really important. Plus, basketball is a big part of my life — I’m never going to get away from that.”When he’s not on the court, Flowers likes to, always with a basketball in hand, spend time with his family, listen to music, hang out and watch movies all at the same time. His favorite genre of movies is comedy.”If it’s funny, it’s funny no matter when it was made,” Flowers said. “I like, you know, ‘Old School.’ I like ‘Wedding Crashers,’ ‘Dodgeball,’ Ben Stiller movies, Vince Vaughn movies, Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, all those great comedians, I like them all.”Being a man of a thousand facial expressions himself, Flowers said there’s only one comedian that can portray what he represents to his friends and family.”I’d have to go with Martin Lawrence,” Flowers said. “He’s the more physical funny comedians, makes faces, just his gestures is really hilarious.”Despite all the pressure of being a Division-I basketball player, the fun-loving Flowers loves the game and is always readying himself to ignite his team to victory.
To everyone — the pundit, the avid fan, the man who sells you bacon-wrapped hot dogs on Exposition Boulevard — Lane Kiffin represents a number of things.To some, he’s a perpetual brat.To others, he’s a Trojan prince, leading USC back from NCAA sanctions.Growing up · Though the fourth-youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Kiffin has experienced his share of controversy. – Razan Al Marzouqi | Daily TrojanTruth, in turn, becomes muddied, and it’s understandably challenging to decipher fact from fiction. Just who exactly is the Trojans’ third-year coach? Do the stereotypes stick? Is he actually that arrogant? Is he actually the boy wonder?But answering just yes or no to such sweeping generalities would be dishonest and unfair. I can’t pretend to respond to either, exactly. Many of us cover Lane Kiffin, but how many of us truly know Lane Kiffin on any sort of personal level?I have interacted with him enough to express a few opinions confidently. For starters, I’ve found him to be thoughtful and calculated — he doesn’t do or say things for the sake of simply doing or saying them. And two, he carries a better sense of humor than he’s given credit for. I like that.But as many will inevitably point out, that doesn’t mean his record is spotless.More or less, he comes across as incredibly stubborn.This is one flaw that has been accentuated in recent weeks, as USC stumbled at Stanford, 21-14, and four days later, he infamously stormed out of a press conference after 29 seconds following a question about the return of an injured player.“Kiffin is a talented, aggressive recruiter and a decent football strategist whose spoiled-brat arrogance constantly undermines his efforts to become a great coach,” wrote Grantland’s Shane Ryan last month. “He stretches rules, misreads interpersonal situations, and issues the wrong kind of challenges to his enemies. People excuse these as the follies of youth, but that’s a cop-out; they’re the follies of character, and maturity isn’t always related to age.”Yup, there are flaws. Ryan chooses the term “spoiled-brat arrogance,” which leans toward hyperbole but is unmistakably rooted in reality. Football coaches tend to be stubborn-minded, petty people. They’re often micromanagers. And Kiffin is a football coach, after all.But the funny thing is, No. 13 USC reversing course this season and meeting its Coliseum-sized preseason expectations largely hinges on whether Kiffin, 37, can still grow as a coach and become less stubborn, and more mature.Friday indicated this might be possible.Toward the end of his team’s bye-week practice at Howard Jones Field, Kiffin, fielding questions from a smaller contingent of reporters, at last admitted a rather obvious but important point. As the team’s offensive play caller, he called a subpar game in USC’s mid-September road loss to Stanford — in case anyone wasn’t aware.“You’d love to have it back but you can’t,” he said. “In coaching, you’re just like players. Every game is not the same. You’re going to have some games where you make some better calls and get in a rhythm. I didn’t feel like I did really well in that game with our players.”He took blame, and it was refreshing.What makes this noteworthy is that it was a public admission. For a while now, Kiffin has received a substantial amount of criticism for a failure to take ownership — at least publicly — for events that have transpired during his tenure, including the Stanford game. Usually, he has deferred, highlighting a particular play or circumstance.But Friday’s admission suggests a lot.It suggests the “arrogant” coach might be open to honest, self-evaluation. It suggests the coach is receptive to criticism. It suggests the coach can still reflect and look to better himself.That said, none of the aforementioned possibilities might be true. But I want to be fair and at least give him that chance. Cynicism shouldn’t be our guiding principle. As much time as we’ve invested in thinking about Kiffin, he still hasn’t reached the age of 40 and has only been a head coach for a total of 62 games.That’s relatively young, which begs the question whether he has room to grow.The Trojans’ success over the remaining two-thirds of the season will be tied to his ability — or inability — to do so. “The 19th Hole” runs Tuesdays. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Joey at firstname.lastname@example.org.