John Flowers took nearly every day of his summer vacation to make one of the toughest decisions of his young basketball career, finally opting to leave Thomas Stone to attend St. Mary's Ryken. The move puts Flowers in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, perhaps the top basketball league in the area and a regular stop for college recruiters.

Three days before the first day of classes, the standout junior called St. Mary's Ryken basketball coach and athletic director Danny Sancomb to say he would transfer to the private school in Leonardtown.

"It was real difficult," said the 6-foot-7 Flowers, an All-Extra selection last season, but he added that Sancomb is going to help him with college recruiters. "He's got more connections. He's going to get coaches to come watch me."

Flowers, one of the most talented basketball players Southern Maryland has produced in the past decade, was worried that he would not get enough recruiting attention if he stayed at Thomas Stone. The Cougars are one of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference's most consistent programs and were a Maryland 4A East finalist the past two seasons, but the conference does not have a strong record of producing Division I basketball players.

"Everybody said, 'You're going to go to states,' " Flowers said, "and I could have been the one to take them there. This was one of the toughest decisions I ever made."

Thomas Stone Coach Dale Lamberth said: "I gave him my blessings. There was no hating involved, and I told him I'm keeping my door open if he ever needs anything."

Flowers can practice with the Knights immediately, but he is ineligible to play in games until the second semester begins. WCAC rules require transfers to sit out a season if transferring for athletic purposes. Sancomb said St. Mary's Ryken received a waiver to have Flowers's eligibility restored in January.

"He's a big part of our program," said Sancomb, who added that the Knights have recruited four international players for this season: two from Serbia and one each from Romania and Germany. "It's not only going to help us on the court, but it's also going to help us attract other kids."

Flowers said he has already seen the benefits of the move: On the first day of classes, there was a letter from Xavier University awaiting him at the school.