KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Catholic center Handje Tamba is ready for the next step and decided to forgo his senior year of high school to get started at Rocky Top.
Tamba emigrated from Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United States five years ago, learning a new culture, language, and a new sport. Tamba picked up playing basketball in 2017 and has worked his way to becoming a force on the court.
The 7-foot tall center won a state title with the Fighting Irish his sophomore season, the first-ever state championship for the program. Last season as a junior, Tamba helped the team back to the state tournament averaging 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game.
An elite performer both on and off of the court, Tamba ended his junior year with a GPA above 4.43 and as a member of the National Honors Society. His dedication to his studies allowed him to reclassify to the Class of 2021 and sign with Tennessee to jump-start his collegiate basketball career.
“He’s a very mature kid, he’s ready for the challenge,” said his father Brett Patterson.
The Pattersons adopted Tamba, helping support and guide him through his journey to Tennessee.
“It’s a dream come true. A blessing,” said Tamba. “It was a lot of emotion because of all the work and sacrifice from my family, from the people who care about me and love me, so I was just thankful and I am looking forward to keeping on playing basketball.”
Having picked up basketball just five years ago Tamba wanted an extra year of development, and believes playing for Vols head coach Rick Barnes will be beneficial for his career.
“I heard how tough he [Barnes] is,” said Tamba. “I didn’t want anything easy. I just started playing the game and I want to play it the right way and I’m sure coach Barnes will make sure I play basketball the right way.”
Tamba plays AAU basketball with the BMaze Elite program and has spent time around VFLs Yves Pons, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bowden who frequent BMAZE Elite to train.
Tamba, who is also fluent in French, is set to enroll at Tennessee this month with plans to major in Biology with aspirations to work in the medical field.
Tamba joins the No. 2 class in the nation joining Jonas Aidoo, Kennedy Chandler, Quentin Diboundje, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Jahmai Mashack and incoming Auburn transfer Justin Powell.
“I will do everything to help the team win on the court and off the court,” said Tamba. “I will represent the university well and do my best, that’s what I’m going to do.”