Meet Jonathan Kasibabu ’19 of the Congo: he speaks five languages [Swahili, Lingala, French, Spanish and English], stands nearly seven feet tall and will help make Stag dreams come true.

Meet Jonathan Kasibabu ’19 of the Congo: he speaks five languages [Swahili, Lingala, French, Spanish and English], stands nearly seven feet tall and will help make Stag dreams come true.

Fairfield University men’s head basketball coach Sydney Johnson is excited about welcoming his new class of recruits to the campus this year. One in particular has created an enormous buzz around school and beyond. He is Jonathan Kasibabu ’19, a 6-foot, 8-inch forward from Kinshahsa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kasibabu attended Westtown School in Pennsylvania, where he earned First Team All-Friends School League honors. He also gained attention when he was labeled a “Player to Watch” at the Chick-Fil-A Classic earlier in the season, and was voted team captain by his teammates, helping his team post a 25-8 record en route to the 2015 Friends School League title.

Before his time in the U.S., Kasibabu was selected to the Euroleague Nike International Junior Tournament All-Tournament team in 2014, and was one of 12 players designated “Top Prospect” that showed “best potential” at the same tournament.

Kasibabu heads up an incoming first year class that also includes Curtis Cobb of Fall River, Mass., Jerry Johnson Jr. of Memphis, Tenn., Scott King, Jr. of Derry, N.H. and Thomas Nolan of Fairfield, Conn.

As with all student-athletes who attend Fairfield University, there is more to Kasibabu than being an outstanding basketball player, and Johnson believes he will make an influence off the court as well.

“We certainly need his versatile talents on the basketball court. But his deeper impact is going to be as a hard-working and high-character person on and off the court,” Johnson said.

“When people get to know Jonathan, they are going to want to follow him, support him and cheer him on. He connects with people simply by being genuine, down-to-earth and likeable,” Johnson continued. “I expect that we will have a lot of fans, both new and old, pulling for our team because of their respect for Jonathan.”

There will be pressure on Kasibabu, as well as on the other recruits and returnees this season. The Stags are coming off a disappointing 7-24 campaign, one in which they lost 13 of their last 14 contests, although a number of those losses were a close match and could have gone either way. Fairfield needs to pick up its scoring and rebounding averages (60 points and 32 boards a game last season) to contend for a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title and NCAA tournament post-season play. When asked whether Kasibabu can make an immediate impact on the court, Johnson emphatically said, “Yes, 100 percent.”

Johnson first heard of Kasibabu from a high school friend. “He gave me a heads up about Jonathan. Soon after, I heard from a college coach who was very close with Jonathan and suggested that we recruit him to Fairfield. Needless to say, both of these friends have an open seat at my dinner table any day of the week.”

Johnson is impressed with Kasibabu’s wisdom and leadership, which he said “are simply stunning.”

He adds: “At this early stage in our relationship, I already have a feeling that Jonathan will be one of the most remarkable people that I will ever meet. Keep in mind that this is a young man who is studying in the most challenging academic setting that most everyday folks will ever study — the university level — and he’s doing so in his fifth language. I challenge any Ivy Leaguer to accept that undertaking. Jonathan is a special young man.”

As is the case with most kids growing up in Africa, soccer was a huge part of Kasibabu’s life before he found his sports calling on the basketball court.

“Africa is all about soccer,” said Kasibabu in an interview from his native country,  “and every African kid plays soccer in his early years. I was a soccer player and I was always the biggest. At the age of 12, I could not continue with soccer because I could not find soccer shoes in my size. I had no choice but to quit. I used to hang around a lot with one of my cousins who loves the game of basketball, and he shared that love with me. From there I developed a passion for the game.”

Kasibabu admits he wasn’t very good at basketball early on, but he did have one advantage. “I had no talent in basketball, but I was big.” He worked hard on his game, to the point where he became one of the most sought-after high school players his senior year. “My strengths as a player are my ability to defend anybody, my competitiveness and the fact that I never give up. I am working on my shooting, which my coaches pointed out to me that I have to improve on in order to be confident on the court.”

Kasibabu, who is planning to major in business, explained his reason for coming to Fairfield University.

“I decided to attend Fairfield because I trust my coaches will help me be successful. On my visit, I loved the team, how they behaved with me and how they behaved with each other. It was like I’d known them for a long time. I loved the spirit and the energy around the team, and I said to myself, I want to be a part of this. I’m coming to Fairfield as a student-athlete and that means being successful in the classroom and on the court.”

Kasibabu said his family is thrilled their young man is where he is: “My family is very excited for me to go to Fairfield. My dad talked to coach Johnson and was more than satisfied with the conversation. My family knows that I’m in good hands.”

Kasibabu is deeply committed to turning the Stags’ fortunes around quickly.

“I love challenges and I can’t wait for the season to start. I believe college basketball will elevate my game. I’m very excited for this opportunity. I want to win and Fairfield is giving me the opportunity to be a leader by offering me a scholarship. I intend to try harder than my best to be a champion.”

When asked if he would like to take his game to the ultimate level, the professional ranks, Kasibabu doesn’t hesitate. “It would be a dream come true to play professional ball at some point in the future. If I had a wish, it would be for that dream to come true. My father has always told me that there is nothing better than doing what you love in your everyday life.”

Fairfield University hoop fans are hoping Jonathan Kasibabu helps makes their dreams of a MAAC title and an NCAA tournament berth come true this season.