The girl who just broke Rebecca Lobo's all-time prep scoring record is a 5-foot-nothing, hijab-wearing, practicing Muslim, the first such female prep star to grab a full scholarship to a D-I school (Memphis), and a girl who still endures the occasional on-court taunt of "Terrorist." Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: she'll be famous soon. The question isn't whether she's ready for it.
It seems almost like a put-on that she plays for a team called New Leadership in the town—and this is where it gets really hokey—that founded basketball all those years ago. But before you say that she was destined for this, know that she wasn't. Abdul-Qaadir is the youngest of seven children and grew up with older brothers who blocked her every shot. She learned to be wily and quick on the court and by age 10, she was playing AAU ball with high schoolers. By eighth grade, she was starting varsity at New Leadership. Today, she's scoring 43 points per game, 70 percent of her team's average. Two weeks ago, school officials anticipated the interest Abdul-Qaadir's record-breaking night would receive, and moved the game to a bigger gym. When Abdul-Qaadir made a free throw that put her over Lobo's total, the game was stopped for 10 minutes as all fans applauded.
One can only hope she will always be so well received. But in reality that won't be the case. Lesser athletes have been routinely called "Osama" during games—and these are Muslim men, who don't have to cover their bodies from head to toe. A few years ago, a University of South Florida female hoops player, and recent convert to Islam, told her coach she wanted to adorn herself during games in traditional Muslim garb. The coach balked, then relented, but the player, Andrea Armstrong, had already left the team. Memphis says it has no problem with Abdul-Qaadir wearing Muslim-appropriate attire, but it's doubtful every fan or opposing player will be as accepting. Abdul-Qaadir has chosen not to address the comments she's heard during games. Perhaps that's the best tact. Her game will respond easily enough.
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