Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Newcomers take similar path to UW

On the outside, Michael Flowers and Greg Stiemsma have very little in common. The tallest player on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, Stiemsma, and his 6-foot-11, 245-pound frame would stand out even without his bleached blond hair. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Flowers is certainly no slouch, but he hardly resembles the towering presence of Stiemsma.

Dig deeper, however, and it is apparent that these are two very similar people. The two true freshmen who have seen playing time for the Wisconsin basketball team this year, Flowers and Stiemsma are growing together. The players roomed and worked out together this summer, but they go back much further than that.

“We’ve been playing against each other since third grade,” Stiemsma said. “I never thought we’d be teammates.”


Early in his career, Flowers experienced Stiemsma’s shot-blocking abilities firsthand.

“We always played with such intensity,” Flowers said. “I’d always try to drive on him and he’d swat it away, so the next time down the court I would go right at him again.” Both Wisconsin natives, Flowers played at La Follette High School and Stiemsma suited up for Randolph High. Playing for the Badgers has been a dream for both.

“Growing up in a small town, I was always a Badger fan,” Stiemsma said.

Flowers was particularly enthused by the opportunity to play for head coach Bo Ryan.

“I came from a very close-knit family,” Flowers said. “So when I heard Coach Ryan wanted me, I jumped on it.”

In addition to their upbringing and college aspirations, even the freshmen’s high school careers were similar. Both led their respective schools to state titles, with Flowers winning the Division 1 crown in his sophomore year and Stiemsma taking the Division 4 title in his sophomore, junior and senior years.

Both players garnered senior accolades despite missing substantial time due to injury. Flowers earned Gatorade’s Wisconsin Player of the Year award and an AP all-state honorable mention as a senior despite only playing 16 games due to an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Stiemsma was named third-team AP all-state his senior year despite being limited to only 18 games with a knee injury.

Neither player has been affected by his previous injury, but Stiemsma missed six weeks earlier in the season with an ankle injury.

“My knee feels great,” said Stiemsma, who has fully recovered from a reconstructed ACL last summer. “But my ankle injury is on a whole other level from a high school injury.”

For both players, injury status isn’t the only thing that’s different between high school and college ball.

“It was a tough adjustment, especially first semester,” Stiemsma said. “There’s no one here holding your hand, telling you how many hours to spend on the court versus in school. You have to be responsible for yourself and manage your time wisely.”

Flowers spoke of a different adjustment.

“17,000 fans on the road in college compared to 1,000 in high school is a big difference,” said Flowers, referring to hostile environments in Michigan State’s Breslin Center and Illinois’ Assembly Hall. “You just have to remember, everywhere you go, the rims are 10 feet.”

Despite all of their similarities, one major difference between the two players has been playing time. As of March 2, Stiemsma averaged just 3.3 minutes per game, compared to Flowers’ 8.8 minutes per game.

The disparity continues to increase, as Flowers has stepped into a larger role in recent games. Flowers logged 12 minutes at Illinois, 18 minutes at Michigan State, 15 minutes at Ohio State and 15 minutes against Indiana.

“Whatever I do on the court, I earned it,” Flowers said. “I earn my playing time and my stats through hard work.”

It also doesn’t hurt that Flowers has emerged as the team’s top perimeter defender.

“He’s a very solid defensive player who doesn’t make many mistakes,” assistant coach Gary Close said. “He’s the most consistent player on the scout team.”

As for why Stiemsma hasn’t seen much time on the court, the reason is simple, Close said.

“Greg just has more competition,” said the Badger assistant coach.

Indeed, Stiemsma has to compete with the likes of Zach Morley, Andreas Helmigk, Ray Nixon and all-Big Ten performer Mike Wilkinson. Flowers, on the other hand, has only Sharif Chambliss and Kammron Taylor ahead of him on the depth chart.

“I’m playing with the best guys in the nation,” Stiemsma said. “I accept that, and I’m just trying to get better.”

Despite the disparity in playing time, neither Flowers nor Stiemsma feels he is being underused.

“Coach Ryan knows exactly what he’s doing,” Flowers said. “I don’t pout. I just try to produce and give Ryan a reason to keep me out there.”

As the two freshmen develop as players, the UW coaches aren’t the only ones helping them get better. Both have received tremendous help from teammates. In Stiemsma’s case, the main influence has been Wilkinson.

“Going against him every day is a blessing,” Stiemsma said. “I learn by getting beat by him.”

Flowers had lots of love to go around.

“Everyone has influenced me,” Flowers said. “(Brian) Butch, DeAaron (Williams), Greg (Stiemsma), they’ve all influenced me. We’re like a second family.”

With almost a full regular season under their belts, each player hopes to expand his role in the future.

“I’m looking to become a team leader,” Flowers said. “I know I’m young, but I want to be the person your teammates count on in crunch time.”

While Flowers hopes to improve his leadership skills, Stiemsma has focused more on the technical side of his game.

“My main focus right now is probably my post moves,” Stiemsma said. “Mainly my flexibility and finishing around the hoop.”

Close and the UW coaches have also placed their emphasis on tightening up Stiemsma’s technical skills.

“Greg’s got great strength, good hands and is a great shot-blocker,” Close said. “We’re trying to get his stance lower and teach him how to use his body better. To learn when to block and when not to block, it’s a big adjustment from high school.”

The players may have different strengths, but they share one common weakness.

“The biggest weakness for both these players is experience,” Close said.

If this is true, Badger hoops fans have a lot to look forward to for the next three years.

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