Head coach Rick Barnes went international to find his first Tennessee basketball signee, as Canadian national Ray Kasongo (pronounced: kuh-SAHN-go) submitted a signed National Letter of Intent to UT Thursday.
Kasongo plans to enroll at UT in June, and he will be a sophomore for the Volunteers next season.
“Ray brings tremendous athleticism to our roster,” Barnes said. “He’s got the ability to run and jump at a high level, and we believe he has the potential to become an elite rebounder.
“He comes from a wonderful family, he has a great attitude, and I think he’s going to be extremely coachable. Ray has a very high ceiling.”
A 6-9, 235-pound forward from Toronto, Ontario, Kasongo played in 34 games as a freshman at the College of Southern Idaho this past season. He averaged 6.0 points and 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 15.6 minutes per game while shooting .592 from the field.
He logged two double-doubles on the year, and his best offensive outing was an 18-point performance against Impact Academy on Nov. 1, 2014. By season’s end, he had helped power CSI to the round of 16 at the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
As a high school senior at Pikeville High School in Pikeville, Ky., Kasongo helped propel his team to 21 wins and the 2013 state semifinals, averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game. He garnered honorable mention All-State honors from both the Associated Press and the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Kasongo–who also is fluent in French–played his AAU ball with the Grassroots Canada AAU program, coached by Ro Russell.
Tennessee has just one letterman from Canada in program history. Hamilton, Ontario, native Bobby Croft starred as a Vol from 1967-70 and was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior.
Barnes, however, boasts an impressive history of signing and developing Canadian standouts, including Cory Joseph (Toronto; now plays for the San Antonio Spurs), Myck Kabongo (Toronto; now plays in the NBA D-League) and Tristan Thompson (Brampton, Ontario; now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Kasongo becomes the third member of a Tennessee signing class that includes guard Shembari Phillips (Marietta, Ga.) and forward Admiral Schofield (Zion, Ill.), both of whom signed with the Vols in November.