Drake Flowers coming home to lead Brookhaven Academy girls’ basketball

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The parquet court of John R. Gray Gymnasium is a space that Drake Flowers knows well. As an alum of the school, Flowers played in Gray Gymnasium during his career that ended with his graduation in 2015.

On Monday, Head of School Jason Case announced that Flowers has been tabbed as the next head girls’ basketball coach at the school. Flowers will also serve as athletic director at Brookhaven Academy.

Flowers comes to BA from Copiah Academy, where he’s worn several hats, most recently as head girls’ basketball coach. During his time in Gallman, Flowers has also been head boys’ basketball coach, assistant softball coach and assistant athletic director while also teaching English.

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“Coming home has always been a goal of mine,” said Flowers. “This school and this community helped raise me and help make me who I am, so having the opportunity to come back and give back and be part of this program is just a surreal opportunity for me. I love Brookhaven Academy and getting to coach the sport that I love at the place that I love means the world to me and my family.”

Flowers replaces Ron Kessler, who resigned following the season after leading BA girls’ basketball since 2019. Kessler also assumed the duties of athletic director in 2023.

Brookhaven Academy finished 29-12 last season and lost to the eventual MAIS 5A state champions from Rossville Christian Academy in the first round of the state tournament at Copiah Academy.

Flowers final Copiah Academy team lost to eventual MAIS Overall State Champion East Rankin Academy 59-52 in the first round of the MAIS 5A Tournament. BA beat Copiah Academy twice last year in the regular season, but the Colonels topped the Cougars 62-42 in the 5A South State consolation game.

As a senior in high school, Flowers played for current BA boys’ basketball coach Josh Watts. Flowers came back to help Watts as a student assistant while attending Ole Miss. He also was involved with the Ole Miss women’s basketball team as a manager during his college career.

“We’re bringing back a very talented and very experienced group which will have a lot of high expectations in our league but also of themselves,” said Flowers of his new team. “Having coached against them for the last few seasons, I have a little different perspective. Being able to have them on my team and not scouting against them definitely makes me feel a lot better as a coach. This group is a group of winners, and we look to continue that in all areas of the game and to also carry that with us on the floor.”

BA loses two senior starters to graduation in Reagan Fortenberry and Mallory Martin. Fortenberry has signed to next play soccer at Copiah-Lincoln CC while Martin is signed to play soccer next year at Southwest Mississippi CC. Other seniors included Braelynn Byrd and Zoey Cade this season.

The team returns rising senior point guard Ella Smith, who led BA in scoring last season. The Cougars also return rising senior forward Ainsley Orr, who had a strong showing as a junior in her first year as a starter. Also back is rising sophomore guard Anne Rylea Thurman, a two-year starter who along with Smith, started on the 2023 state title winning team at BA.

“I got to meet with the team yesterday and communicate with them how excited I am to be back and how excited I am to be their coach,” said Flowers. “I’m big on toughness – mental, physical and emotional toughness. That’s something we are going to stress at all times, and we are going to play hard all the time – even if things aren’t going our way or we aren’t having the best night. I feel like those things will help us be successful a majority of the time. Basketball skills will develop as we go, but that championship mentality has to be there. That’s something we need to win basketball games but also something they need when they leave BA.”

Coaching is a natural career path for Flowers to follow as his mother Becky won a state title leading the Brookhaven Academy softball team in 2021.

Drake Flowers has also been an assistant softball coach at Copiah-Lincoln CC for the past six seasons for head coach Meleah Howard. During his time in Wesson, the Wolves have won a MACCC state championship, held the no. 1 national ranking and won the 2023 NJCAA Division II National Championship.

He’s also done color commentary on MAIS Overall Basketball Tournament broadcasts.

The expectation at BA is to be playing in the Overall Tournament, not watching it and that’s something that no one will have to tell Flowers now that he’s set to work at the school he calls home.

“We have girls on this team that have won a state championship already and are hungry to do it again,” said Flowers. Obviously when you walk through our gym and see all the banners, state championships are what people expect and that will be our goal every year. I can’t wait to hit the ground running.”