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Former Badgers standout Michael Flowers teaching basketball for a good cause

The Madison native returned to his hometown to finish his degree in 2010 and is now hosting his first basketball camp with a portion of proceeds going to fight leukemia.

USA TODAY Sports

Michael Flowers' name is littered across many Wisconsin high school and collegiate basketball records. As a key player for Madison La Follette, he led the Lancers to the WIAA Division I Boys Basketball State Championship in 2002 while also being named the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004.

In college, Flowers was a part of Wisconsin Badgers teams that earned their first ever No. 1 national ranking in 2007, won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships in 2008, and earned All-Big Ten Team honors in 2007 and 2008. He spent a couple of years overseas in Europe, but came back to finish his degree in wealth management at Wisconsin. Now, Flowers wants to leave an impact on the court in a different way.

Through his Max Academy Summer Camp running from Aug. 16-17, Flowers hopes to teach high school boys and girls how to train for and compete in the game of basketball, all while giving back to a special cause for an old friend.

Many Badgers fans remember the special bond between Flowers and a young boy named Max Bass. Bass was diagnosed with leukemia at a young age but battled through it and had started to play basketball. He did, however, struggle with his shooting. While watching a Wisconsin basketball game with his father, Adam, Bass immediately bonded with Flowers, who wore the same No. 22 jersey. Bass drew inspiration from Flowers and continued to improve, rarely missing a shot.

Adam posted on a Wisconsin fan message board about Max's story, and word got back to Flowers and his family. He invited the family to Austin, Texas -- Max's mother, Jamie, is a Texas alum -- to watch the Badgers play the Longhorns on Dec. 29, 2007. There, Flowers met Bass and his parents for the first time.

The meeting was special for both Flowers and the Bass family, and it was also one of the more memorable moments in Badgers basketball history. Flowers hit the game-winning three-point shot with 2.7 seconds left, then immediately stole Texas' inbounds pass, clinching a 67-66 win over the then ninth-ranked Longhorns. The Basses celebrated with Flowers and the Badgers that afternoon, and their friendship has continued to this day.

Max has been in remission from leukemia for about three to four years, according to Flowers. As a tribute to the journeys and battles Bass has fought through in his young life, Flowers is donating 22 percent of the proceeds to leukemia research and services.

"I should have done this sooner," Flowers said last week, "but this is kind of showing my appreciation and gratitude for what they've done for me."

The camp costs $190 per enrollee and is open to high school girls and boys basketball players. Flowers' camp hopes to stress key areas like skill development, next-level training, weight training instruction and more.

Flowers himself also hopes to encourage kids to grow in their abilities with a very credible staff. Along with former Badger Charlie Wills, Flowers has enlisted two current men's and four women's Badgers basketball players as instructors for the two-day camp.

"Essentially, what I'm trying to stress is AAU basketball, in the summertime, is good -- if you're good already," Flowers said.

"Summertime AAU basketball is to be seen. But what most kids these days forget is that you have to put in the work while you're not playing."

"Summertime AAU basketball is to be seen. But what most kids these days forget is that you have to put in the work while you're not playing, and that's two hours everyday in the gym, working out, working hard on the court and in the weight room.

"A lot of individuals at that age, they just don't have the means to know how to work out on their own effectively."

That's why Flowers brought in Keysha Benzing, owner and trainer at Madtown Athletic Department, for the camp, which will offer four-hour sessions in two days. Benzing will be in charge of showing players how to use their own body weight for exercises to increase lower-body strength, hip flexibility and other key areas for improvement.

Now staying in the Madison area, Flowers is the second former Badgers player to hold a basketball camp in the area this month, as Mike Bruesewitz is finishing up his two-day camp for players ranging in grades 1-8 in Verona this week. Flowers -- who also is a volunteer firefighter for the Middleton Fire Department -- hopes to hold camps again in the future, delivering tools to help young high school athletes succeed while honoring his friend and a worthy cause.

"I definitely want to help individuals really become better at basketball in the offseason, and learn how to compete," Flowers said.

"Most people think being a competitor is just being mad when you lose, but it's actually focusing on every single rep you take and realizing that your true competitor is looking at you in the mirror."

For more information to register on Michael's camp, please visit the Wisconsin Swing website or MaxAcademyBasketball.com.