Thin Syracuse lineup loads up on chicken and pasta

first_imgDETROIT — Paschal Chukwu is Catholic, so he’s not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. But Syracuse’s pregame meal always includes chicken, putting Chukwu at a crossroad on Friday before SU’s NCAA Tournament matchup against Texas Christian. Chukwu, SU’s starting center, gave in. “I ate the chicken,” he said. “I had to make a compromise. I had a game. I have to be strong and active.”Former Syracuse standouts Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters are Muslim. Both had similar religious protocols to that of Chukwu when they suited up for the Orange. Former players have had allergies, said Brad Pike, Syracuse’s assistant athletics director for sports medicine. Other former players experienced nerves or excitement before games, which can make eating substantial meals difficult. This is the challenge for Pike — the man tasked with designing the meals for a thin SU lineup, whose trio in Tyus Battle, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett average minutes break the top 10 in the country. In other words, what they put into their bodies matters. How they fuel up matters now more than ever. No. 11 seed Syracuse (22-13, 8-10 Atlantic Coast) will play its third game in five days when it tips off against No. 3 seed Michigan State (30-4, 16-2 Big Ten) on Sunday at 2:40 p.m. If one thing’s for certain, it’s the meal SU will eat, always about four hours prior to tipoff: vegetables, water, potatoes and a whole lot of chicken and pasta. “There’s times we’ll give them money and they can go out on their own,” Pike said. “But now we’re in the tournament and controlling what they’re eating.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMORE COVERAGE: Patrick Herlihy takes in NCAA Tournament experience as a walk-on after three years as a managerHow Syracuse’s postseason run overlaps with midterm exam season Some colleges have sports nutritionists and chefs. Food budgets are skyrocketing as programs put nutrition at the forefront. Menus include prime rib, made-to-order omelettes and grilled salmon. Food spreads have become another way for universities to compete.Before games this week, Syracuse eats in a conference room at the team hotel. Pike sends hotels a full schedule of meals, including times and food items, several days before the team arrives. Breakfast is almost always at 10 a.m., save for rare occasions like the TCU game, which didn’t end until Friday turned to Saturday. After SU beat the Horned Frogs, 57-52, Pike said the Orange reconvened back at the hotel to indulge in a make-your-own hamburger bar. The protein is integral in players’ recovery. They load up throughout the day and night on water, Gatorade and Powerade, ensuring their urine is clear, not yellow. Howard and Battle also sip on coffee to prepare. “I’m a skinny dude, so I’m still on my college diet sometimes,” said junior point guard Frank Howard, who is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. “When we’re on the road, I try to eat very well, a lot of carbs, for energy, a lot of water, Powerade, coffee, Gatorades.”Breakfast includes omelettes, waffles, pancakes, bagels and fruit. Most players dig in to jump-start their day and fuel up for team meetings or practice. Junior center Paschal Chukwu, however, is “not a breakfast guy.” His favorite is pasta, which he eats just about every day. So does freshman forward Oshae Brissett, and nearly every other member of the team.“I like pasta, any type of pasta,” Brissett said. “I could eat it every day.”After playing big minutes, players like Frank Howard need to make sure to refuel correctly. Alexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerHalf an hour after Syracuse beat TCU, Pike was roaming the locker room with bags of ice in his hands. He listed the dozen or so go-to meals he provides, including chicken parmesan, sirloin steaks, vegetable ziti and, sometimes, Chick-fil-A. Pike said players were ecstatic when a Chick-fil-A opened up in Cicero last month. Then, he looked across the Syracuse room and pointed to Battle and Howard.“We have all kinds of stuff, lots of carbs, so we can get those glycogens, especially for the iron guys over there who play all of the time,” Pike said, pointing at SU’s backcourt duo who play the entirety of games.Pike has hundreds of Microsoft Word documents on his computer. He converts the menus into PDF form and emails them to whatever hotel the Orange will stay at. SU eats almost exclusively at the hotel. Every once in a while, Syracuse will dine out. In Dayton, Ohio, this week, the whole team got a treat: SU went to a nearby steakhouse. “We don’t go hungry,” Brissett said. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 17, 2018 at 8:30 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21last_img