Updated: Jan 22
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Alpha Chibambe grew up wanting to be a soccer player long before realizing his potential on the basketball court. As he started to grow and mature into his current 6’5” and 215-pound frame, Chibambe decided to give basketball a shot. After performing well in front of local talent evaluators, he quickly garnered interest to further develop his talents in the U.S. and is currently enrolled at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California.
Adjusting to the speed of the American game proved to be initially challenging, but after putting in the work on and off the court, Chibambe continues to climb the ranks as one of the best prospects on the West Coast. While he’s a powerful athlete, Chibambe also brings legitimate size to the guard position, a natural feel for the game, secondary playmaking, and scoring diversity. His blend of natural gifts and budding skill-set have impressed numerous college basketball programs as his recruitment continues to heat up.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Chibambe discusses his unique basketball background, his current recruitment, making the most of his opportunities, various off-court interests, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Alpha Chibambe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Pro Insight: Tell us a bit about your background.
Alpha Chibambe: I have two brothers. One here in California and one who is like five years old — he’s back home in Congo. Back home is different from here [United States] — there’s so much culture — people speak like 11 different languages and all that stuff, so it’s kind of different from here. I’m from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
PI: Are there any other athletes in your family?
AC: Yeah, we’re definitely an athletic family: my mom played soccer and she also played basketball a little bit. She’s like 5’10”, so I think I definitely got it from her. My grandpa used to play basketball, too. He’s like 6’8”, so I definitely got it from them. My grandma played volleyball, so it’s definitely a family thing.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
AC: In Africa everybody plays soccer. You have to know how to play soccer. If you don’t know how to play soccer back home it’s like a shame, they would shame you [laughs]. Growing up I wanted to be a soccer player at one point, but when I got taller and they put me as the goal keeper I was like “nah” [laughs].
PI: When did you first start playing basketball?
AC: I started playing basketball around 12 years old and I started taking it seriously around 2016, when I was 13 years old. I started playing at 12 years old and wasn’t taking it seriously until some events happened, then I started taking it seriously at 13 years old.
PI: What type of “events?”
AC: I had to drop out of school. Some stuff happened with my mom and grandma, and I had more time so I was like, “I have nothing to do, no school, I might as well start playing.” Then I started enjoying more and was like, “man, this is actually fun,” so I got into it more and now here I am.
PI: How did you initially learn to play basketball?
AC: At first we had this place that was like a playground near my house and they would do practices from about 5-7 PM, and I would usually go. That’s where I started off, and after that they suggested that I should start doing club. Over there it’s different, there is no high school basketball, it’s just club — all club, all year. They said I should definitely do club and that I have a chance and I tried out for this one club team, they took me in and that’s where I started getting better and started enjoying it more.
PI: What is the basketball scene like in Congo?
AC: Basketball in Congo is different...it’s slower. Here it’s like really fast, the pace is really different. When I first got here I was like, “oh my god I have a long way to go,” but here it’s fast and more IQ. Back home it’s more athleticism and height, because back home 6’5” is like short. It’s more like 6’11” guys, 6’10” guys, 6’8” guards...it’s like all athleticism and height. It’s very physical back home.
PI: How did you wind up in the U.S.?
AC: So when I started playing club, I would play club and on the weekends go play on the playground and there was this one guy, he recruits people and looks out for top prospects back home. He would record you off a Samsung and post it on his YouTube page. Once your video is on YouTube, he has a couple high school coaches that follow him, they’ll see the video and if they’re interested they’ll be like, “yeah we want him” and they’ll send out an I-20. It’s just like getting an offer, but it’s like getting an offer for high school. So it’s just like the same feeling, but he was recording me doing some basic stuff like shooting, dribbling, dunking, etc. — just some basic things so when a coach sees it he can be like, “okay, we can fix him up.” So he posted those videos and I had a couple of high schools wanting me and it’s whoever sends out the I-20 first. An I-20 is like a student visa that gives you access to come to America. It’s like the easiest way to come to America. So whoever sends out the I-20 is where you go. I got my I-20 and here I am.
PI: Is it something you’d been thinking about for awhile, or did it just come up?
AC: I was honestly thinking about graduating and coming to America, but that would’ve been almost impossible because it’s really hard leaving Africa. It just came out of nowhere, he just kind of came up and was like, “why don’t you give it a try, give me a chance with you” and I was like, “alright, it’s just a video” so I went for it. Then he told me, “here are the schools that want you to go to their high school” and I was like, “how does it work?” And in less than three months here I am, it was fast. Leaving a country is hard, leaving the Congo and Africa to come to any other country is hard, but to make it in less than two or three months was a quick process.
PI: What has the adjustment been like?