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Ex-WMU, Southfield A&T star Michael Flowers finally gets NCAA's OK to play at South Alabama

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Michael Flowers has a new home. And now he can start decorating, too.

Flowers, a former Southfield A&T star and last year's leading scorer for Western Michigan, was granted immediate eligibility at South Alabama on Tuesday, after a months-long tug-of-war with his old school and the NCAA.

Flowers' appeal to play immediately was originally denied by the NCAA in September — one of only a handful of transfers in the country that had been denied, versus dozens that had been approved.

Former Western Michigan guard Michael Flowers has been ruled immediately eligible for South Alabama.

"I don't want to downplay the significance of what this means to him," Richie Riley, South Alabama's head coach, told The News on Tuesday night. "That's why we do this, that's why I fought so hard for this — because it's the best thing for Mike.

"When I recruited him, I told him I would fight every single day to do everything I can for him to be able to play immediately because he deserved to play immediately."

Flowers, 21, decided in the spring to transfer, after long-time Western head coach Steve Hawkins was fired and replaced by assistant Clayton Bates.

Flowers originally planned on transferring to Santa Clara, but it needed a point guard for this upcoming season, and the slow paperwork process between Santa Clara, Western Michigan and the NCAA forced Santa Clara to move on.

That's when South Alabama, of the Sun Belt Conference, entered the picture.

Riley wanted Flowers eligible immediately, too, but stuck with him even after his initial appeal was denied — South Alabama suggested it was Western Michigan that was needlessly holding up the process, while Western Michigan adamantly denied that.

Flowers, for his part, told The News in September that he was lied to twice by Western officials — once when athletic director Kathy Beauregard told him the team would have input into the coaching search (he said that didn't happen), and once when Western filed paperwork saying Flowers had officially told an assistant coach he wasn't returning (Flowers denied that conversation took place).

Flowers said Western filled his scholarship before he officially decided to leave. On April 17, Western signed freshman guard Josiah Freeman from Virginia.

On social media in September, Flowers put his old school on blast on social media.

"It's been very disheartening," Flowers told The News in September.

Flowers was extremely close to Hawkins, who became a parental figure during his freshman year when his mother died suddenly.

At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Flowers started all 64 games the last two years at Western Michigan, averaging 16.3 points — including a team-best 17.0 last season.

After Hawkins' firing, Flowers and good friend Brandon Johnson, the team's second-leading scorer, decided to leave. Johnson, immediately eligible as a grad transfer, quickly caught on at Minnesota.

Flowers has been at South Alabama for several weeks, taking classes. He's on track to graduate this spring with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

He joins a basketball team that was 20-11 and 13-7 in the conference last season, a major turnaround in just Riley's second season at the helm.

"He's got a chance to be one of the best players in our league, we feel like," Riley said. "I'm just so happy for him."

College basketball's 2020-21 season begins Thanksgiving week, though teams and conferences continue scheduling work.

New dial for UDM

Detroit Mercy men's basketball has a new home on the radio, moving to 92.7-FM with a simulcast on 1500-AM. The games also will be streamed on faithtalkdetroit.coim, iHeart Radio, TuneIn and on the station's mobile apps.

Dan Hasty will return for his third season doing play-by-play for Detroit Mercy, which has begun practicing.

Detroit Mercy joined 910-AM, the Superstation, in 2016.

New commish

The Horizon League, home of Oakland and Detroit Mercy, is gearing up for some new leadership. Julie Roe Lach, a long-time administrator with the league, will be its new commissioner, effective Jan. 1.

She succeeds Jonathan B. LeCrone, commissioner since 1992 who is transitioning to an advisory role with the league.

Roe Lach has been the Horizon League's deputy commissioner since 2014.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984