For senior guard Pancake Thomas, fish is the fuel

On his senior night in high school Pancake Thomas jumped up and cut open his arm on the backboard. Since then Thomas went on to play two seasons at the University of New Mexico then transferring to the University of Hartford and playing one season there. Thomas has averaged 13.5 points a game since joining the Hilltoppers earlier this year.

Matthew Stewart

When you think of college athletes, great performances or a series of statistical records being broken often comes to mind. What you rarely hear or think about is what fuels those kinds of numbers and plays.

Athletes need to take care of their bodies to be successful and maintain success when playing a sport at a high level. The college basketball player is usually not portrayed as such.

But the WKU men’s basketball team has a special player. Meet Pancake Thomas, a 6 foot 4 senior guard from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thomas is averaging 13.4 points per game playing in Conference USA. After transferring from Hartford to WKU for his final season of eligibility, the guard has made an impression on the Hilltopper community.

“He’s been really, really good,” Head Coach Rick Stansbury said. “He’s going to finish up having a strong last half of the season for us. I believe that.”

The fans and those that follow the Tops know that Pancake plays a lot of minutes. Sometimes he plays all 40 of them.

But the secret to his stamina and ability to perform for the entirety of a game is not something that is widely known. The graduate student takes care of himself — much more than most would assume of a collegiate student-athlete.

A lot of people make resolutions for the new year and how they would like to better themselves. Thomas stuck to his plan.

“You know the young man has been so disciplined in what he eats,” Stansbury said. “A lot of people talk about, ‘well I’m gonna go without red meat,’ and that lasts about a month. Well this young man, during the recruiting process says, ‘Coach I gave up all red meat and chickens and all that a year ago.’ And he has literally done that now.”

When Thomas started the New Year, New Me approach in 2016, he had some encouraging factors that played into his decision.

“It just made a year when the New Year came in,” Thomas said of his year-old diet. “It was like the New Year’s resolution New Year/New Me thing. When I first started changing my diet it started from the Bible in Leviticus where they talk about unclean foods. And then it just carried on.”

The change resulted in Thomas converting into what is called a pescatarian, or as the dictionary describes it, “one whose diet includes fish but no other meat.”

“All the GMO’s [genetically modified organisms] that are in chicken … [the Bible] was talking about as far as the spiritual aspect of it and when they slaughter the animals all the stress hormones that are in there in the animals, when you eat it they go in to you,” Thomas said. “You know, blood is super sacred.”

Thomas noticed things change immediately when he changed his eating habits.

“You don’t really get as tired,” he explained. “You know how you eat certain foods and right after you eat it you get tired and you want to go to sleep, that’s not good for you because your body is trying to break it down. That’s why you need to go to sleep; so you can break it down.”

Thomas doesn’t brag about what he is doing. Some of his teammates didn’t even hear it from Thomas first. The team trainer mentioned it to the other guys while taking food orders for the team.

His teammates joke to him about it, as his plate is always different from theirs and always stands out.

“He’s always on the road eating fish, he got his special plate ready for him and stuff,” senior guard Que Johnson said. “Everybody likes steak and chicken, they stick to their meats.”

Sometimes he is tempted when the team is on the road and all the other players are eating the typical steak or chicken dinner.

“They say, ‘oh here he goes, his special plate,’” Thomas said with a chuckle. “Sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes that steak looks super-duper good. They are grubbing down, especially the chicken tenders.”

Despite being able to resist the temptations of red meat, Thomas said he still breaks down and has sweets every once in a while.

“I eat candy, I eat cookies. You can catch me eating cookies but that’s about it,” Thomas said.

He misses a lot of places that he used to eat, but still finds ways to eat at his favorites even in Bowling Green.

“I really miss Cheesecake Factory. I used to eat there,” Thomas said. “Wing Stop and Buffalo Wild Wings too. Now I just go to Buffalo Wild Wings just to get the fried pickles, just to step through the door.”

Thomas applies the same amount of care and attention in the way that he practices to get better as he does with his diet.

“He gets up, gets a workout in most days before practice even,” Stansbury said. “He spends time in that training room, in that ice tub. That’s one guy in every way he has gotten a lot better from day one from the standpoint of the ability to defend and how he practices.”

“Probably in my 30 some odd years coaching, or whatever it’s been, I have never had a player that takes care of his body like Pancake,” Stansbury said. “Every day he’s become a guy that gives you everything he’s got every possession. I couldn’t have said that three months ago. I think all that goes hand in hand. His attitude about things, the way he takes care of his body. He does it all the same way.”

Thomas’ eating habits haven’t been the only thing to improve over the course of the past calendar year. The senior sharpshooter is second on the team in three-point percentage, knocking down his shots from beyond the arc just under 39 percent of the time.

He carried the Toppers in Thursday’s win over Texas El Paso, scoring 25 points on 7 of 10 shooting from three-point land.

Justin Johnson, a three-year Topper veteran, compared Thomas to one of the school’s best long-range shooters.

“TJ Price – that’s the first guy that comes to mind for me,” Justin Johnson said. “He knows where I am going to find him on the floor. He knows those spots where I can see him. Pancake does a really good job, the same thing that T.J. did, when you get doubled, he gets to where you can see him. He just gets into an open spot when that double comes. He reminds me so much of TJ, cause TJ could knock that thing down too.”

Thomas’ diet has led to his ability to play the minutes he plays, stay in shape and do it day in and day out.

WKU has an especially unique player on its roster and his name is Pancake Thomas.

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 859-797-3140 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.