Boys basketball

Life is good at Marquette for Lake Station transfer Flores

2014-03-18T19:00:00Z 2014-03-21T14:47:09Z Life is good at Marquette for Lake Station transfer FloresJim Peters james.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

Life has thrown a lot at Nate Flores.

The Marquette senior didn't have the typical two-parent upbringing. They divorced when he was young. He knew little of his troubled father, only connecting with him for a short time before Michael Flores died last year.

An on-off relationship with his mother, Christina Vasquez, often led him to live elsewhere, and he currently resides in Lake Station with Linda and David Guzman, his guardians.

"He's been through a ton, as young as he is, circumstances a lot of people never face in a lifetime, let alone a day," Marquette coach Donovan Garletts said. "He's the type of kid who could have easily taken a different path."

The temptation was real, but Flores had a plan, a vision of a better future.

"Many people tell me I could have crumpled and fell off the ship," he said. "I knew it could happen. I tried my hardest not to let it happen. I wanted to show my brothers and sisters, everyone, that I could do it, I could be successful.

"Part of me wanted to prove myself, that I could go play basketball, not drop off and hang out with bad kids."

Flores started as a freshman and sophomore at Lake Station, following in the footsteps of his brother Dean.

After the 2011-12 season, coach Bryon Clouse left for Hanover Central. Unsure what lie ahead, Nate decided it was best for him to go elsewhere.

He said he considered all three area Catholic schools before settling on Marquette. The drive was the longest, about 35 minutes to the north side of Michigan City, but Flores preferred the smaller enrollment at Marquette.

"The first thing was academics," he said. "I wanted to succeed in the classroom and go to college, and I was sure Marquette would help. It's so small, everybody likes everybody. There's no drama. They care about athletics and academics. It's a win-win situation.

"If I had stayed (in Lake Station), I'm pretty sure it would have turned out much different."

Even so, leaving wasn't easy. He left a good team and good friends, not all of whom understood.

"It would've been more points (there), but more losing. I cared about winning more," Flores said. "(Dwayne) Haden and I are still good friends. I go out to eat with (Kyle) Gooch. I was best friends with (Brian) Patterson. He had a hard time with it. Somewhere, deep inside, I think he wanted to, but he never got over it.

"That hit me hard. We grew up together. It affected me, losing him."

A quiet sort, Flores initially struggled outside his comfort zone, but soon came to fit in well with his new teammates and classmates.

"He's fared very well for all the adversity," Garletts said. "He's a great kid on and off the court. He gets good grades. It's been a great situation for him. He's got a great personality and has made a lot of friends I think will be life-long friends.

"I'm impressed with how he interacts with adults. He's shown incredible maturity, well beyond his years."

The on-court transition wasn't as difficult.

"They played fast at Lake Station with coach Clouse," Garletts said. "The biggest surprise to him was how we made him play defense."

Flores averages 11.6 points per game and has a team-leading 46 steals for Marquette, which stands one win from the Class A state finals.

He was honored as Mr. Marquette at winter homecoming. His grade point average is just below 3.0, positioning him for what he hopes will be an opportunity to play in college.

He and his mom are getting along well.

Life is good.

"I have great people surrounding me, family and friends I grew up with who took me in," Flores said. "They wanted the best for me and I appreciate it so much."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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