On the court, Fordham senior men’s basketball star Abdou Tsimbila is a quintessential star forward: tall, strong, and gifted around the rim. He averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and ranked third in the A-10 conference and 18th in the nation with 2.3 blocks per game.

But off the court, Tsimbila’s story is anything but typical.

Here are five things to know about this star Fordham Ram.

1. He’s Representing Cameroon in Olympic Qualifiers.

After graduating, Tsimbila will suit up for his country and head to training camp for the Cameroon National Basketball team this July in Latvia. Cameroon is one of six teams competing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament ahead of the Paris games this summer.

“I’ve always dreamed about wearing my Cameroon jersey,” he said.

2. He Speaks Five Languages.

Tsimbila grew up in Cameroon speaking French, Arabic, Lingala, and Banham—but mastering English is among his proudest accomplishments.

“I learned basic English with my friends in the locker room, but in the locker room, we don’t always use proper formal language,” said Tsimbila, who attended high school in Maryland.

When a recruiter said his English wasn’t strong enough to succeed in college, Tsimbila worried—after several attempts—that he might never pass his proficiency exams.

Then he called his mom.

“She told me, ‘Son, if you believe in something, you have to go after it and do whatever it takes,’” Tsimbila said.

By summer’s end, Tsimbila not only passed his exam—he nearly doubled his score.

Tsimbila high-fives teammates before taking the court.
Tsimbila during pregame lineup announcements.

3. He Wants to Be an FBI or CIA Agent.

Tsimbila is graduating from the School of Professional and Continuing Studies with an individualized major in arts and computers. After graduation, he’ll pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity at Fordham while continuing to play for the Rams. He plans to apply to work for the FBI or CIA.

4. His Bond with Coach Keith Urgo Goes Beyond Fordham.

Tsimbila forged a special connection with Fordham Head Basketball Coach Keith Urgo—before either became a Ram.

When COVID-19 and visa complications made it impossible to return home for Tsimbila—then playing for Penn State with Urgo as assistant coach—Urgo promised his star recruit he would personally make the trip to Cameroon to reassure Tsimbila’s family that their son’s future was in good hands.

“Abdou is everything a coach could ever want in a player,” Urgo said.

Tsimbila scores a finger roll at the rim.
Tsimbila scores at the rim.

When Urgo came to Fordham, one of his first moves was to recruit Tsimbila from the transfer portal. Again, it was Tsimbila’s mother who swayed his decision.

“She said, ‘That man came all the way to Cameroon to tell me that he cares about you not just as a player, but as a human being,’” Tsimbila recalled. “‘I think you should follow that man—he wants the best for you.’”

5. Fordham Is ‘the Best Decision’ He’s Ever Made.

Tsimbila embraced by his cheering teammates after a victory.
Tsimbila celebrates a victory with his teammates.

According to Tsimbila, his decision to transfer to Fordham has paid off beyond the court.

Last summer, Fordham Basketball provided financial and logistical support for Tsimbila to travel home for the first time in six years.

“There’s no other school in America that would have done something like that for me,” he said.

During his senior season, he learned that his family was affected by devastating landslides in Cameroon.

“I received a lot of support from people at Fordham that I never would have imagined,” he said.

Despite those family challenges, Tsimbila had one of his strongest seasons.

“I won’t be sad when I leave Fordham because I know I can come back here anytime,” he said. “Fordham for me means home.”

Remember, on the evening of May 18, New York’s Empire State Building will be illuminated in Fordham maroon for our graduates.