UT basketball player breaks barriers playing with hijab

Make no mistake: what makes her different on the outside doesn’t mean she’s any different on the court.

EAST MOLINE, Illinois -- While school was off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the United Township girls basketball team was working diligently in the gym. Shot after shot, rebound after rebound, the Lady Panthers were hoping to turn a corner with a big Western Big Six match up next Thursday evening, January 30th, versus rival Moline.

"Everyone has something different they bring," said Abida Diasso, a junior on the team. "We have different kinds of shooters, we have post players. Everyone can contribute in a different way to make the team successful."

Diasso is different -- but in a unique way.

"Growing up, people would always stare at me because of my scarf and but I've gotten used to it and I don't let it bother me anymore," said Diasso.

Diasso is believed to be the only athlete in the Quad Cities to wear a hijab while playing.

"We do anything that normal people would and some people just see it as our faith makes us do certain stuff. But it`s just like every other religion. There are dos and don'ts. Our religion is just a little bit different than everyone else," said Diasso.

But make no mistake, what makes her different on the outside doesn't mean she's any different on the court.

"I can actually show people that, "Yes, I can play basketball." Just because I have a scarf on... I'm fully able to do on the court what other girls are doing," she said.

Her faith is a source of empowerment, knowing she's setting an example for other Muslim-American athletes in the Quad Cities and beyond.

"I feel that it's something special that I bring," she explained. "That I can show other girls in my position or other people that are afraid to do certain things because of their beliefs that it`s okay to do it. You just have to be strong and confident and you can achieve anything."

She knows not everyone agrees.

"Never judge a person if you don't know them," she said. "We're all nice people. If you get to know us, you'll get to see that we're just like everybody else."

That confidence is translating on the court and off it, too.

"Don`t let other people's judgement cloud yours about how good you can be at certain things," she said. "You can do it."