From Africa to Jamaica

Alpha and Abubakar Bangura learned of the most unusual surprise of their lives last semester. Little did they know that they were more than just two Red Storm athletes passing each other in the corridors of Alumni Hall. They were more than just part of the Red Storm family, they were cousins.

“Not too many people can say that they have a family member that goes to the same school and is active in sports,” Alpha said. “It’s a great thing.”

Alpha first learned of their possible relationship last year when a mutual friend told him about Abubakar. He admitted he was curious, but did not go out of his way to find out the truth.

However, last semester the two finally met in a fitting place for two athletes to encounter each other, the trainer’s room. After getting to know each other over a couple of weeks, their ultimate question was finally answered. A mutual uncle, who lives near Alpha in Maryland, confirmed that the two were actually cousins.

“It is a cool thing to have a cousin on campus because it is like a brother figure to look towards,” Abubakar said. “If I need something I can go to him and if he needs something he can come to me.”

Alpha, a junior, is currently in his first season as a member of the St. John’s men’s basketball team after transferring from Monmouth University last year. While Abubakar is a freshman mid-distance runner on the Red Storm track team. With each sharing similar experiences in collegiate athletics this year, they have been able to turn towards each other for advice.

“We can both learn from each other,” Abubakar said. “Since we both play sports we have been able to give each other tips. It’s a nice thing.”
“Both of us can relate to a lot of different situations in terms of sports,” Alpha said. “I guess you can say that we are a support system for each other.”

Alpha has not only helped Abubakar adjust to a new school but a new country as well. Abubakar grew up in Sierra Leone, a small country on the coast of Africa, before coming to St. John’s this fall. Despite the distance in miles between the two, they have found a lot in common. “We have been able to hang out a lot and have really gotten to know each other,” Abubakar said. “We realized that we are definitely cousins.”

Both of them said that their families were equally as shocked and excited, as they were when they learned of the relationship. They have each had the opportunity to meet members of the other’s immediate family this past year and look forward to more family reunions.

“We just want to keep a good line of communication with each other and hopefully form a really close relationship,” Alpha said.