How does she do it? In the face of triple teams, with defenders all but linking their arms like paper dolls, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is able to exploit the limited daylight she gets and average 42 points a game.

How does she do it? Passing Rebecca Lobo’s 17-year-old Massachusetts high school mark of 2,710 career points is about as easy as bumping Julie Andrews off the hilltop, and yet Bilqis graciously eclipsed the legend in January on her way to becoming the first player in state history — male or female — to score 3,000 points.

How does she do it? For the last four seasons –beginning one year after her 43-point varsity debut as, yes, an eighth-grader — the 5-foot-3 1/2 Bilqis has played for New Leadership Charter School in Springfield in full Muslim dress, arms and legs covered beneath her uniform, wearing a head scarf, or hijab.

Bilqis doesn’t mind remarks rooted in curiosity; it’s the questions out of ignorance that she meets with a confident rejection. “When some people come at me with, ‘Oh, is that a tablecloth on your head?’ — it’s like, really, don’t,” Bilqis (pronounced Bill-KEACE) said last Thursday, the day she ended her high school career with 51 of the Wildcats’ 57 points in a regional Division III quarterfinals playoff loss. “If you’re going to have that kind of question, don’t ask me. But some people are truly honest in asking a question, like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be rude, but why do you wear that?’ That’s the kind of question I’d rather answer.” . . .

Some nights on the floor in visiting gyms, she would hear the catcalls derived from the fear of the unknown, shouted in stupidity: “Terrorist!” But slowly, the more heads she turned with her step-back threes and her sleights of hand, the more minds Bilqis opened. This wasn’t grudging tolerance but joyous acceptance of an exceptional player and student. Not only does she possess a cashmere-soft touch and flinty defensive skills, but she’s also on the honor roll, with an interest in premed and the stomach for the Discovery Health Channel. (“I’m good with the scalpel scenes,” she says.) Bilqis has been embraced for all she is. With 1:23 to go before halftime on Feb. 17, the Wildcats’ game was stopped for 10 minutes as the home crowd cheered her 3,000th point. (MORE)


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