Windsor

Women's basketball recruit first to wear hijab for St. Clair College

Noor Bazzi is the first hijab-wearing basketball player to join St. Clair College's roster.

'I love being the first girl to be able to have this opportunity to represent my community they way I am'

Recent recruit to the St. Clair College women's basketball team, Noor Bazzi is the first woman to wear the hijab in the team's history. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

On and off the court, Noor Bazzi wears her hijab.

It's a first for the women's basketball team at St. Clair College, but it's just another day for Bazzi. She's worn a hijab since she was about 10, about a year after she started playing basketball.

As a recruit to college sports, she's hoping to take this opportunity to be a role model. One she never saw reflected in her image while growing up.

"I love being the first girl to be able to have this opportunity to represent my community they way I am," she said.

True to her Muslim faith, Bazzi will be almost entirely covered when she plays, which can be a problem when trying to buy gear. Sometimes she has to go to the men's section to find white tights for home games.

"I'm not complaining, whatever is there, I get," she said.

At 18, she's been playing in a hijab for eight years. In high school, there were other girls that wore one. She said there hasn't been any challenges or set backs because of her religious gear.

"Everyone has accepted me with open arms."

She admits she does get looks sometimes. Bazzi said it's not a look of anger, but of wonder. Some have never seen a woman playing basketball in hijab.

"I just show them what I can do on the court," she said.

St. Clair College welcomes first hijabi basketball player

4 years ago
Duration 0:24
Noor Bazzi is the first hijab-wearing basketball player to join St. Clair College's roster.

Sojood Tifak is an eighth grader at An-Noor Private School. She's on the basketball team, her number-one sport.

Tifak said she has never seen someone like her on the courts, and when she plays at other schools, sometimes she feels people undermine her because they assume that "girls with hijab are kind of wimpy."

Once she gets to high school, she was going to start prioritizing other things over basketball. But after seeing the video of Bazzi playing, she said it was a "complete inspiration" for her to keep pushing.

"I never heard of her, but when I saw that video, I was so shook," said Tifak, "Probably the first time I saw somebody playing that hard as a girl with a hijab." 

Sojood Tifak is an eighth-grade basketball player. She loves the sport and said seeing Bazzi on the court has inspired her to keep pushing to play through high school and post-secondary education. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

However, Bazzi is sometimes concerned that she may be more recognized by her clothing than her ability. To combat that image she said she will work as hard as she can to show them that it's not about what she is wearing, but the passion that she brings to the court.

"Every time I step on the court I'm leaving everything on the court, like I'm diving for balls," she said. "I'm hustling on defense. I'm cheering my teammates on, when I'm not playing."

Friends and family had been watching her play for years, so when word came that she was recruited to a college team a flurry of text messages came in.

"They were insanely proud of me. They said 'I'm making a name for myself. I'm representing the community well.' Hearing that touched my heart. That's all I want to do, be a positive role model," she said.

And she's already succeeding. Ted Beale, the athletic coordinator at St. Clair College said Bazzi is a great addition to the program.

Ted Beale, athletic coordinator at St. Clair College, said Bazzi is a great addition to the program. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"She's a great role model for everyone. Whatever background you're from there's an opportunity for you to participate and be involved in something you enjoy to do," he said. "At the end of the day we want to make sure she's playing the game she loves and that's the biggest thing for us."

Her aspiration as a role model don't end with her time on the court playing college sports, she's also coaching. Bazzi is excited for the opportunity to coach a Windsor Valiants team for girls. She's already created relationships with the athletes.

"I think it's just really important because they don't just look at me as a Muslim, a female wearing the hijab," Bazzi said. "They look at me as a basketball coach and they respect me for it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stacey Janzer was born and raised in Essex County, Ontario. Self-described Canadian treasure. She currently works as a video journalist at CBC P.E.I., formerly at CBC Windsor. Email her at Stacey.Janzer@cbc.ca.

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