• Collin Atwood

KCU's Jasmine Flowers Keeps Pushing for a Purpose



Dyslexia in a nutshell:

Reading words like “how” as “who” or “now” as “won.”

Right?


Wrong. Really wrong.


Kentucky Christain University guard Jasmine Flowers did struggle in school as expected. But dyslexia causes additional problems that affect life outside of the classroom.


The mixture of the disorder’s directional and memory issues do not pair well with aspirations of becoming an elite player.


But as Flowers aged and progressed in her game, her dyslexia actually became the easiest hardship she had to face.


No matter what happened though, she always had one reason pushing her to overcome her many adversities.

Learning with dyslexia


Most of Flowers' teachers thought she might be dyslexic in the first grade, but her doctors did not diagnose her until the third.


“I can remember when she was much younger, even when she was in kindergarten, I kept saying, ‘something’s not right’,” Flowers’ mother Susan says. “Finally somebody listened to me and when we got her in Orton-Gillingham Jasmine was like, ‘I got this Mom, I can do this’.”


Orton-Gillingham is a teaching strategy specialized to help those who have reading, writing and spelling problems associated with dyslexia. The approach emphasizes multisensory learning which includes sight, hearing, touch, and movement.


While Flowers went through this curriculum, the living room inside their house did not prioritize a homey atmosphere. Instead of having family pictures and decorative wall art, Susan covered her living space with colorful easy-to-read charts and word-walls, making it look like an elementary classroom.


Along with the troubles of dyslexia, another major concern sat in the back of Flowers’ mind: being the best big sister.


At the time of Flowers’ dyslexic diagnosis, her younger sister Tyra had not even reached first grade. She definitely knew that Tyra would imitate anything her built-in role model did.


But Flowers chose to not let dyslexia control the rest of her life hoping to inspire her sister through strength.


“I try to be strong for my sister,” Flowers says.


To accomplish this, Flowers had to get creative in the way she learned and completed school work. Flowers stayed up until 1 a.m. doing homework with her mother…in the bathroom.


“My eyes were very sensitive to the light, so we would sit in the bathroom because it had the best lighting and she would try and tutor me and help me understand it a little bit more,” Flowers says.


To prevent light from reflecting off of the paper into her eyes, teachers would give Flowers different colored worksheets or an overlay so she could see. The classroom difficulties resulting from dyslexia went much further though.


As mentioned, dyslexia does not just impact the way someone sees or reads. For Flowers, the disability affects her memory, reading, writing and directional abilities. She even says she holds her pencil “differently than other people.”


Flowers would use basketball as a way to escape the reality of a classroom, but unfortunately and not surprisingly, a lot of the issues that dyslexia caused in school carried over to the hardwood.

Early years on the court


Flowers started playing basketball competitively around the same time as her dyslexic diagnosis, and sparks immediately flew.


“She scored 27 points in her first little league game and she came to me and said ‘I think I like this’,” Susan says.


Flowers quickly realized that she wanted to pursue basketball and started challenging herself. As a second grader, Flowers joined her father as he coached the middle school boys basketball team and would participate in drills during practice.


By the time she got to the fourth grade, Flowers earned a spot on the middle school girl’s team.


“I was raised in the gym,” Flowers says.


Obtaining the talents to play above her grade level came from hours of training and maximum effort.


The next year, inspired by her older sister’s determination, Tyra joined the family business and started her own basketball career.


“She was always a real hard worker,” Tyra says.


Now, Flowers had to be just as strong on the court as she had been in the classroom to show Tyra that she could deal with the basketball-related struggles as well. But dyslexia would not go easy on Flowers.


“When I was younger I played point guard, so [my coach] would say ‘go right’ and sometimes during the game I would go left,” Flowers says.

The memory problems cruelly caused by dyslexia can include muscle memory as well, critical for skills like shooting and dribbling.

People with the luxury of having strong muscle memory can perfect any motion by repeating it again and again. Flowers struggled with that ability and had to repeat shooting and dribbling motions much more than others.

Her father, who played basketball at Lindsey Wilson College, helped Flowers work on the parts of her game made difficult because of dyslexia. They used to go to the gym in the morning and back again at night.


But the training never stopped when they left the gym.


At home Flowers would practice her shot release in her bedroom by flicking her wrist and work on her handle by dribbling tennis balls in the kitchen. The nonstop motion of dribbling and shooting around the house helped with her muscle memory issues.


“It just imprints - after a while,” Flowers says.


The extra hard work, unnecessary by those without dyslexia, paid off as she started playing for her high school while merely in sixth grade.



High school tribulations


By the time Flowers reached her sophomore year at George Roger Clark High School in Winchester, K.Y., Tyra joined her because she too could handle playing with the older kids.


Tyra worked hard to improve her basketball skills. But having Jasmine by her side along the way definitely helped.


“We used to do all of the workouts together,” Tyra says.


A majority of their training revolved around one-on-one games with each other. Who wins more often? “I do,” say both of them.


The first high school season that the Flowers sisters played together their team advanced to the elite eight in the state tournament. That kicked off a 3-year streak of reaching state tournaments.


“That’s something I would never change, playing with my sister and going to state tournaments,” Flowers says. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”


For the older Flowers sister, that year also started a series of unfortunate events. During the regular season, Flowers came down with infectious mononucleosis (mono).


The mono kept recurring and caused her to miss multiple games throughout the year. After realizing it would not go away, Flowers’ doctor ran a test and determined that she was a sickle cell carrier, which weakens the immune system.


One after the other, new challenges occurred in Flowers’ life that made life and being a great big sister extremely difficult and she could not understand why.


She could only control how she powered through the struggles for Tyra.


Despite very limited availability, Flowers still managed to help the George Roger Clark Cardinals make it to the state tournament.


Flowers dealt with another setback when she unknowingly fractured her ankle in that tournament. She did not stop playing on it that game and ultimately worsened the injury.


“Her ankle was just really messed up and she just continued to play on it,” Tyra says. “I just thought that was really strong of her.”


Throughout Flowers' high school career, she consistently proved that she could push through the tribulations.


In the last game of Flowers’ senior season, the Cardinals trailed by three with just seconds left in the fourth quarter of the state tournament.


Flowers had the responsibility of taking the final shot and nailed a three-point buzzer-beater to send it to overtime.


And the Cardinals went on to . . . well, unfortunately come up a bit short. But more importantly Tyra saw that Flowers' skill and determination never faded through her troubles.

“She’s a great role model,” Tyra says. “She shows that you can overcome everything.”



Kentucky Christian University


Although she faced many challenges in high school, that didn’t stop her from getting recruited to play college basketball. Flowers played her first year at the University of the Cumberlands, but ended up bringing her talents to the Knights at Kentucky Christian.


KCU head coach Lisa Conn started eyeing Flowers during her junior year of high school.


“She’s very talented, well-rounded and understands the game holistically, not just from an offensive or defensive point,” Conn says.


Flowers may have begun a new chapter in life, but that did not stop the hard times from coming.


During Flowers’ sophomore year of college, her sickle cell issue came back to haunt her when she caught the coronavirus. Her tainted immune system could not fight the virus off, which led to rhyabdomyolysis.


This rare medical condition releases a damaging protein in the blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rhyabdomyolysis can lead to permanent disability or even death. For Flowers, it specifically attacked her kidney.


Again, Flowers did not understand why it happened.


However, she did not let it defeat her and thankfully so because younger sister Tyra also suffered from rhyabdomyolysis.


In Tyra’s case, the disease attacked her leg muscles, kept her in the hospital for about a week and forced her to use a wheelchair and walker.


Who better to go through that pain with than an older sister who has already faced a handful of obstacles in life?


“I’m [Tyra’s] older sister so I have to make sure that she can get through it too,” Flowers says.


Flowers’ drive to become the best role model possible for her sister has gotten her through many obstacles.


“She is a wonderful big sister,” Susan says.

But she would need that drive come December 2021 when she faced yet another extremely difficult and potentially demoralizing challenge.

Shortly before Flowers returned home for winter break, she felt a pain emanating from a very big mole on her hip. Flowers decided to have a doctor check her out when she returned home.


She did not think much of it and only expected to get a mole removed, but the reality of the situation turned out far more dire.


The doctor informed Flowers that she had a benign tumor on her hip. The surgery to remove it caused Flowers to miss the rest of her junior season and kept her off of the court for over six months.


“I was in a very dark place,” Flowers says. “It definitely took a toll on me and I was very emotional.”


The doctor even advised her not to jump until mid-July of 2022.


“No one really had an answer for me and it was just something I really struggled with,” Flowers says.


All she ever wanted to do was be strong and resilient for her sister, but life kept testing her limits.


To try and overcome this struggle, Flowers reached out to a friend and former teammate, Alyssa Howie.


Howie leads a Christian community group at KCU. Flowers had begun to question her faith, but reversed course over time because of her friendship with Howie.


In March of 2022 they discussed a question that had been consuming Flowers: Why do people endure such complicated obstacles?


“I had been through so much and I just didn’t understand,” Flowers says.


This conversation with Howie pushed Flowers in God’s direction, ultimately helping her move past the frustration caused by the untimely hip injury.


“With everything going on I’ve had a friend show me and just give me scripture to look at and it really did help me. I do believe,” Flowers says.


And now Flowers has the ability to be that same person for Tyra.

Though still in the process of recovering, Flowers expects to be ready for her senior session. As always, she powers through the worst life has to offer.


“Everybody has their own struggles,” Flowers says. “It’s just another page in the story and I just have to keep writing my own.”


In the 13 games Flowers played in her junior season, she averaged 10.1 points (3rd best on the team), 4.3 rebounds (4th best on the team) and 1.5 steals a game (2nd best on the team).


The Knights will need her to continue to put up these numbers and more since the team’s two leading scorers from the 2021-22 season departed.


As Flowers works on her comeback season, Tyra will be making a name for herself as an incoming freshman on the basketball team at the University of North Alabama.


“Jasmine keeps bouncing back so resilient to everything,” Conn says. “She has all these things going on, but she’s more concerned about her sister’s well-being and welfare.”


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