After taking a hiatus due to COVID last year, the 2021 Tarkanian Classic returned with 175+ teams spread across multiple gyms in Las Vegas, NV over the span of a week. Featuring elite basketball competition in prep and high school divisions, the must-see annual December high school tournament provided evaluators an opportunity to watch the prestigious NBA Academies in Africa and Latin America in addition to programs from around the U.S., Canada, and even Germany.
Pro Insight was on hand to cover the event and caught up with Cyr Malonga of Evangel Christian School (KY) and Team Thad (TN). Originally from Pointe Noire, Congo, Malonga arrived in the U.S. in 2020 after his basketball coach back home saw an opportunity for him to develop his game. Despite only playing basketball for three years, the 6’11” big man possesses a nice combination of physical tools and defensive upside. He is a strong rebounder and leverages his length well as a rim protector.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Malonga discusses playing soccer growing up, his favorite school subject, why he wears the number 21, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2023 prospect Cyr Malonga, from Pointe Noire, Congo:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Cyr Malonga: First of all, I'm from Congo and then I got here in 2020. I just kept working. I just worked every day and [went] to the gym. That’s what made me better.
PI: You’re obviously very tall, did you get your height from your parents?
CM: Yes, they’re really tall…'cause my dad is 6’9”. My mom is like 6’2”.
PI: Did they play basketball?
CM: Ahh no, they [did not]. They don’t know [too much] about basketball.
PI: You played soccer growing up, when did you start?
CM: I played soccer since I was three years old.
PI: Who is your favorite soccer team?
CM: I used to be a Real Madrid [fan], but now it is Manchester United.
PI: Who is your favorite soccer player?
CM: Cristiano Ronaldo.
PI: Has anything you learned in soccer translated into basketball?
CM: I think things that are happening in basketball [that I took from] playing soccer is just my footwork.
PI: What are your current measurements?
CM: Right now, I think I’m 215 pounds and then I'm 6’11”.
PI: How did the opportunity come for you to move from the Republic of Congo to play basketball in the U.S.?
CM: That was by my coach, my basketball coach back home in Congo. Yeah, so he knew somebody here that helped me to come here in the USA.
PI: Has the transition to the U.S. been smooth for you?
CM: Ohh no, that was not easy 'cause I missed the visa for the USA on my first time and then I got it the second time.
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
CM: Ahh, I don't really know what to say right now 'cause I'm just like learning more about basketball 'cause I only played basketball for three years. And then I think I might be one day, like Joel Embiid.
PI: Is Joel Embiid someone you model your game after and try to study on film?
CM: Yessir, he’s been one of my favorite players.
PI: What other players do you like?
CM: I like Giannis Antetokounmpo, too.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
CM: I think working a little bit more on my free throws and if I am able to shoot the ball with the two-point shot. Yeah, I would like to get better [there].
PI: How was your experience with Team Thad?
CM: Playing with Team Thad was good [for me]. They taught me a lot about basketball, about playing hard, and then being willing to compete with high level teams.
PI: What’s your recruitment update?
CM: I talk the most with Western Kentucky, but I talk with other schools too like Memphis and everybody else.
PI: Are you taking any upcoming visits soon?
CM: I'm still thinking about it. I might get a visit soon, but I already had three visits. I've been to Michigan, Kentucky, and Memphis.
PI: Who have you been hearing from the most, lately?
CM: Yeah, I’d say Western Kentucky, the Western Kentucky coaches.
PI: What will ultimately be your deciding factors when making your choice?
CM: I think if I go to a place where I can play more and then the place where they can help me more like playing in the post. That'll be better for me.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
CM: Basically what I like to do for fun is just like playing 2K, I think.
PI: Who’s your go-to team for 2K?
CM: That’s the Brooklyn Nets, that’s my favorite team. It’s quite easy to play with them.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
CM: I would say Big Scarr, he’s a rapper.
PI: What is your favorite school subject?
CM: I think it's English 'cause where I came from, we don't really speak English, so I want to learn more about English and speak the full language.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
CM: #twentyone. Yeah, that's my number.
PI: Why did you choose the number 21?
CM: First of all, when I came here, I used to wear #24 which was Kobe 'cause I used to like Kobe when [he was playing]. And then I switched to #34 which was Giannis Antekounmpo. So I just like my favorite players’ numbers. So #21 is like Joel Embiid.
PI: How would you describe yourself?.
CM: I think I'm a good teammate and then I can look for [rebounds] on the glass, pass the ball, and then I can score, too.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
CM: I just want to be remembered for all my good [attributes] on the floor, how good I was and then how competitive I was.