Missouri's Flores has a lot to smile about

The sophomore forward leads the Tigers with 26 blocks.
Sophomore forward Christine Flores goes up for a layup against Murray State on Sunday, Dec. 13 in Mizzou Arena. Flores is experiencing a breakout season, leading the Tigers with 26 blocks and ranking in the top three in many offensive categories.

Sophomore forward Christine Flores has grown into an impact player for the Missouri women's basketball team this year. Beyond all her rebounds, blocks and success on the court, though, her teammates know her for one thing: her permanent smile.

"Whether we're on the court, in the locker room, anywhere, Christine is always laughing," junior guard RaeShara Brown said. "She makes a good play, she laughs. She makes a bad play, she laughs. She's just always smiling."

It is no wonder she is so bubbly. Halfway through her breakout season, Flores has a lot to smile about.

In more than 17 minutes per game this season, the 6-foot-3-inch sophomore leads the team with 26 blocks. Flores also ranks in the top three in rebounding, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

When averaged out with her time on the floor, Flores is arguably the most efficient Tiger at getting to the line. Once there, Flores knows how to make it count; her 70 percent free throw shooting is second on the team.

Before this success began, Flores had to get noticed. Flores earned the all-time scoring record as well as All-State honors in her junior and senior year at Winston Churchill High School in her hometown of San Antonio.

Once she came to Missouri, Flores knew she had a lot more work to do.

"It's difficult, but it's fun on the way up," Flores said. "You have to work for your position, you don't just get handed anything."

Flores said the hardest part of the transition to college basketball was the level of conditioning. Reaching that level was a challenge for Flores at first. She played in 27 games and became a team leader in blocks as a freshman, but a lack of conditioning and recurring ankle injuries held her back.

"We always knew what a great player she was going to be," coach Cindy Stein said. "The key for her was conditioning. She wasn't getting up and down the floor when we started. We had to gradually do that."

Stein said the importance of an inside presence made Flores worth the wait.

Flores considers the Ball State matchup Dec. 5 to be the turning point in her season. Flores opened with scoring 10 points.

The suspension of senior forwards Amanda Hanneman and Jessra Johnson also opened up playing time for Flores, making her one of Missouri's top scorers in their absence.

Flores said she hopes to improve her ball handling, outside shooting and conditioning as the season goes on. Although Stein said she still has much room to grow, she recognized Flores' high potential.

"I think she could be one of the best post players ever here," Stein said. "She definitely has those capabilities. I think she can put up big numbers in her career here."

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