DALLAS — When logging on to the University of Southwest’s women’s basketball website, the first photo you’ll see is that of Anitria Flowers.
Flowers, a junior college transfer and the Lady Mustangs’ second-tallest player, is the catalyst of a team that made continuous strides this season.
Southwest’s season ended in Red River Athletic Conference loss to nationally-ranked Our Lady Of The Lake University April 28. While the Lady Mustangs’ 6-26 campaign suggests, among other things that they struggled considerably this year, in essence, it was a season in which Southwest first-year coach Jamene Caldwell’s team is building for the future.
That future, by all accounts, will surely involve Flowers, a 5-foot-11 combo guard who figures to help steer the team in the right direction for what she pledges will be a memorable senior campaign next.
A player whose favorite quote — at least according to Southwest’s website — is, “Talent is God given. Be humble, fame is manmade. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful,” Flowers doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s destined to not only help propel the Lady Mustangs from years of futility, but she’s also vows to attract the attention of WNBA scouts and general managers by the time she finishes her collegiate hoops career.
Having transferred to USW in Hobbs, New Mexico after a stellar two-year stint at Howard Junior College in nearby Big Spring, Texas, Flowers wasted little time making her presence felt for a Lady Mustang team that finished the season on a favorable note when it won two of its final three outings.
A speedy two-way guard, Flowers was aggressive on both ends of the floor for USW, especially on the offensive end, where even as the team’s floor general and facilitator, she appeared assertive against elite talent, penetrating hard to the basket much like she did during her days of running the show as a prep standout for Sundown High in Texas.
“I love basketball because it’s a sport that you can control the outcome and it is structured but you have freedom to show what you can do,” Flowers said during a recent interview. “I have always loved basketball and always will. When I’m on the court whether in practice or a game or just shooting around nothing else matters and it’s just peaceful.”
Because she often presented match-up problems for the opposition, Flowers evolved as one of USW’s most efficient defenders, often hustling her way for block shots and steals — key attributes Caldwell’s believes undoubtedly will be signs of things to come next year.
“Anitria has progressed tremendously during the course of just this season alone,” Caldwell said. “I cannot attest to her work previously to my arriving at USW since this is my first year. However, in the short amount of time that I have been privilege to coach Anitria, she has developed into an aggressive offensive player that can really score at will. She is also one of the best shot blockers I have had the opportunity to coach. She is what I call a quiet assassin on the court. At the end of it, you don’t even realize how her stat line completely changed the game. I know she will (work hard) throughout the summer and into next season and she will be ready for an unforgettable senior year.”
Among Flowers’ grandest supporters has been her mother, Michelle Flowers. A current resident of Sundown, Texas who often travels hundreds of miles to witness her daughter in action.
“The first time she picked up the basketball, it’s like she had a built in naturalness for the sport and I knew then she would do great things in basketball,” Michelle Flowers said. “When it’s game day I wake up pumped and ready to go, I’m anxious all day because I’m ready to see her play. I love every minute watching her play as a child. Her senior year (of high school) I went to every game. When I found out she was going to play college ball, I smiled from ear to ear and told her she deserved it because she worked so hard to get there. She lives in the gym even when she comes home for weekend and holiday visits. I’m beyond happy for her. I want to see her excel in life.”
As she prepares for what figures to be a memorable senior season, Anitria Flowers’ primary objective, she said, will remain the same.
That is, she pledges to leave it all out on the floor, thus make her mother proud, just as she’s done since she first reached for a basketball at five years of age.
“I will graduate college with my criminal Justice Degree and continue to work hard in the gym to better myself so I have a chance to play at the professional level,” Anitria Flowers said. “My mother has very proud of my grades all throughout school and I’ll continue to keep them up and make her happy. I always keep in touch with my family and that is something that is a must. Family is so important to me. Without them it’s difficult to accomplish all that I already have.”
Stay tuned. Chances are the college basketball world hasn’t seen the last of this kid.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.