National champion, winningest player in Baylor Men’s Basketball history, leader, mentor, photographer, most interesting man on the Baylor roster, a self proclaimed old head, fan favorite, Flo Thamba.
Flo took time out of his finals and practice schedule to sit down and chat about hoops and life. The goal of these interviews is to primarily talk about things outside of the X’s and O’s, but Flo’s basketball I.Q. was magnified in his answers and I couldn’t help diving in.
The passion Flo has for Baylor and seeing the continued success of the program simply cannot be quantified. Baylor Nation is blessed to have Flo in the green and gold. Flo is a flat out winner, and from his perspective, the winning isn’t done yet.
Take a few minutes to listen to the full interview linked below, Flo’s perspective on life shines through his answers about hoops. You’ll leave with a new outlook on basketball and encouraged to pour into those around you just like Flo.
Links to the Podcast
Q1) Do you agree that you have the coolest starting lineup intro in college basketball?
A1) “I definitely know I have the longest intro, because they gotta say the whole country. At Baylor it is definitely better, but when you go on the road or in the tournament they usually butcher it and mess it up. But definitely at Baylor it sounds good.”
Q2) In a preseason press conference you referred to yourself as something along the lines of the “old head” on the team. What has it been like stepping into that veteran leader role on this team?
A2) “It’s been a change throughout time. But when I look at this year and last year, we are more competitive. There is more accountability when things go south. Whether it’s when we are supposed to win a game that we end up losing, or the intensity we have at practice isn’t there, or with the small stuff that isn’t seen on the scoreboard or stat sheet, it’s my role to make sure that the standard is being held.
With that it is very challenging, very competitive, it demands a lot of attention; but coach always likes to say there is a reason people are put in a certain set of positions, its because they’re made to handle it. So with me being in that position its just having the experience and trying to be the toughest guy on the team I got to have that attitude.
Whenever stuff happens or stuff goes south, I got to be the glue guy to hold people together. Probably the best illustration of it was the Virginia game. We are down and things aren’t going our way, but I got to find certain spurts and certain ways to hold guys together and go on a little run. So that's kind of the summary of being the old head, you’re not necessarily just riding the high wave but just being the constant through everything.”
Q3) Another thing the fans see is the energy that you bring to the team. What are some of the moments that excite you most on the court?
A3) “For me personally it is mostly on the defensive end, when we get that stop or rebound to swing a play. The reason I like the defensive end is if you look at that national championship team when we had Davion just clamping up, saying nobody is going to go past me and its not going to be easy. That feeds into offense, the more we are doing defensively the more the offense will take care of itself.
We have a lot of guys that can score, but when you’re not playing defense the offense can be very sluggish. When you are locked in on defense and play locked and loaded, it just makes the offense easier, there’s more fluidity to it.”
Q4) It seems like you really rise to the occasion in the biggest moments and the biggest games. What comes to mind is the Kansas game at home last year, and obviously the national championship. How do you get yourself ready to thrive in those moments?
A4) “For me first of all its the scout, you have to pay attention to the scout and some people overlook that. A lot of people will get the jitters and think to themselves that they're about to go play in a big game. But it starts with the preparation before the game, you know the work that we do to observe how the other team does stuff.
We look at what their strong suits are, what their weaknesses are and how can we break those down. So for me going into a big game I don't ride off adrenaline and think I need to get 20 points or 10 dimes or whatever the case is. For me I think to myself, who is their best player and what can we do to take that away so we have a higher chance of winning.
The reality is you can have 20 and 20 and have an incredible stat line but when you lose at the end of the game all that goes away. So in those big games the most important things is coming out with a win.”
Q5) You recently became the winningest player in Baylor Men’s Basketball history, can you share with us what that means to you and how you have seen your game and the program evolve in your time in Waco?
A5) “It means a lot. It is a great accomplishment and it’s huge. But for me it really gives me a retrospective from when I got here. When I got here we had not won a single title, nothing. We had great players that had come through the program, but didn't yet have any of the physical accolades for it.
Obviously when I trace back the journey to the beginning it was not as sweet as it is now. It was more so just learning. Early on in my career at Baylor I was not the same dude on the court, I wasn’t getting the minutes, I was just a dude on the bench.
So what that did was give me time to just observe different things on the court. Even when I would come in for little three minute spurts I would see how things unveiled and just developed into that aspect of winning. So when my time came, it wasn’t a matter of is he ready, but when is he going to step on the court.”
Q6) Your experience just watching and learning like you mentioned, is that something that you try to encourage the young guys with today? Josh obviously comes to mind, but is that approach something you are trying to pass down to the next generation of Baylor Bears?
A6) “Yeah most definitely. When you look at Josh it’s just trying to teach him to understand the game a little differently. What I have noticed is when you are a younger player the game is just really fast. You’re trying to do a lot of things at once instead of focusing on specific things at once.
Like knowing okay right now early in the shot clock you can’t do this, or after we just got a bucket you can’t give up a quick transition bucket. Like all those small little details as a young player it’s sometimes hard to understand all that. You just see the ball going back and forth back and forth and just feel like you’re playing basketball. But the reality of the thing about college basketball is it is always a possession game.
The amount of possessions in college are counted compared to high school where the mentality is just to score the most points and win the game. In college you think about preventing the other team from scoring so that we have a better chance of winning because the less amount of possessions they have the less amount of chances they have to put the ball in the hoop. Increases our chances of winning.
So yeah young players like Josh it is just about teaching him certain things in certain scenarios. Even when it comes to looking deeper into our bench with players like Jordan and Zach who are not playing much, but I try to keep motivating them to have the right attitude because it is really hard. Being in that position you feel like you’ve got to be out there, and the reality is you deserve a chance to be out there but based on statistics and the dynamic of our situation it may not be favorable for you to be out there.
Feelings can be hurt and stuff but the reality is we are a stronger unit as a whole than we are individually. That is what helped us win the national championship, that no matter what was thrown at us we were going to be fine.”
Q7) You were born in the Congo, and have lived in England, France, and South Africa prior to moving to the United States. Can you just share with us a little bit about your childhood and growing up in those countries?
A7) “Prior to being in the US I was just a regular kid to be honest with you. Most of my sporting days were in South Africa, probably around the age of 10 or 11 is when I really got into sports.
Prior to 10 years old I was just a regular fat kid, just being a kid man. I was tall so I didn't do much and people thought I was super lazy. When I went to high school around 14 I went to all boys school in South Africa which strengthened me.
We lived in a dorm, had to play every single sport and everything sort of just happened. You know growing up, becoming a man, having responsibilities. It benefited me a lot and propelled me to go on my basketball journey. If I had to be precise my basketball journey pretty much started when I was about 15, when I started playing a high level of basketball.
The high level of basketball is when I came to the states at the age of 15. We played a scrimmage game against either a Division II school or NAIA school, the University of Pineville. Our high school played against them as one of those warm up games. I was like man this is new basketball, everybody moves faster, everybody has a cross over it was just different. Where back in South Africa I was just dominating. I was the dude who was dunking on everybody, but on this level it was a higher competition where everyone was on an equal level. I just had to work work work and get better and understand the game a little bit better.”
Q8) When in your high school recruiting process did you know you wanted to come to Baylor and what was that recruiting process like on and off the court?
A8) “My recruiting experience was fairly different because I got recruited really late. Sophomore and Junior year I didn't really have much. But it was the end of Junior year that AAU summer I basically blew up and picked up a whole bunch of offers.
So going back to school my Senior year I was trying to make my decision as far as school goes. I had a bunch of scholarships and was trying to narrow down my schools. The way I narrowed it down to Baylor was based on the preference of what program was good and also where it was the warmest. Living in Virginia it was just too cold, I was trying to get outta there. When Texas came into mix I was like lets go. Seeing how warm it was I was like I guess I'm somewhat sold to coming down south.”
Q9) I know you have the Flotography Instagram. When did you get into photography and how has that become a passion of yours?
A9) “I never took photography until my sophomore year in college. The reason why is I was trying to find a different passion that didn't exert a lot of energy out of my body. You know you’re practicing and doing a lot of stuff so I wanted to try something that would stimulate my thought process that was also fun.
I feel like pictures do that by capturing moments that are also memorable. The brain is able to do that by capturing pictures you can come back in time and remember that moment. The picture captures that single frame but in your head it stimulates and replays the whole moment when you took that picture. You remember where you were standing, how you were standing, how you were holding the camera, when you took it. You remember everything from when someone presents a picture to you. I liked that aspect of it so I went into photography.
Also I liked taking pictures of the guys because a lot of the guys were saying I need more flicks for the ‘gram. So I was like you know I got you. So my first prospect was MaCio Teague, he just loved the camera and being in front of the camera and everything; also Mark Vital too. Overall it was just fun it was just something we did. And considering we spend so much time together it was just something to do that doesn't exert a lot of energy.
So as I came into it I just got better and better and better. I had to actually learn photography in the sense of like levels of camera. I started with a Rebel T7, a very weak camera, but to me it meant a lot. Now I’m at a Sony AC7 III, so its just like you have to take steps to get there to understand the different lens and camera bodies and everything. But overall it was fun.”
Q10) What are your favorite kinds of photos to take? You obviously take tunnel fits of the guys. Do you prefer that sort of photography or nature and outdoors, what is your go to and favorite photography to do?
A10) “Originally when I started I was more into nature. Just trying to visualize certain things and try to capture it. Early on in my photography I was more in to nature. As time went by I am more into portrait and freelance. It’s more capturing different moments, people at a party, or people doing a certain activity.
One time we went to Houston and we had a scrimmage in Houston and we stopped at Andretti’s and capturing guys there playing in the carts. It was fun just seeing guys in action. Most of the time photography is based upon fixing a certain pose and I kind of struggle with that, because I don't need people to position themselves in a certain manner that's harder to capture.
For me it is more capturing real life scenes; the way you talk, the way you move, the way you’re laughing its more authentic. So I dove into that freelance type of photography, whether it’s events or being in person. That’s why I struggle taking grad pictures versus fit pictures. Grad pictures are really specific, and I don't really like that. I like just more freelance.”
Q11) Do you have any other hobbies or passions outside of basketball and photography?
A11) “For the most part that's about it. Not much too much. But I do like to watch documentaries I am a huge documentary buff. I like watching stuff that is based on a true story. I feel like I learn more through that in terms of educational purposes than sitting there trying to read through 1000 pages. I would rather watch a documentary or watch a movie based on a true story.”
Q12) Who have been some of the most impactful people in your life when it comes to basketball or just normal life and have molded you into the man you are today?
A12) “I definitely give credit to a lot of my coaches through my journey in sports. Primarily they were the main male role figures present tracing back to South Africa, he was there when I first started to dribble the basketball. Like just when you dribble the basketball also being able to lift your leg up, that's how bad I was. But he saw the potential in me to have the ability to play.
I would be in the back of his car the whole time just driving to tournaments and practices, we spent so much time together, even more than I did with his kids. Also coming to the states, my coaches a lot of my figures were my coaches. Because I had been around them for the longest time, propelled me to have the attributes I have today.”
Q13) Any final thoughts you want Baylor nation to know or here from you heading into conference play?
A13) “Not much just same old same old. Hope you can make it out to a bunch of games. Let’s just go out there and play and rack up as many wins as possible.”