Tonawanda News

March 1, 2014

Shabazz key to O'Hara girls hoops success

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lady Hawks take on Nardin tonight in MMA title game at the Koessler Athletic Center.

By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Every high school athlete dreams of his or her moment in the spotlight. To earn the respect of peers. 

But there are some things far more important than attention. Like selflessly doing whatever is asked of you to help your team reach even greater heights. 

Cardinal O’Hara senior Aisha Shabazz is that kind of girl.

In her fourth season with the Lady Hawks, Shabazz has been the unsung hero who has helped the Hawks reach the No. 1 spot in Western New York and the Monsignor Martin Association championship game tonight against Nardin at 6:30 p.m. 

But, unless you’re a die hard Hawks follower, odds are you have no idea just how important Shabazz has been.

The younger sister of former Hawk standouts Jasmine and Aaron Shabazz, who were both potent offensive weapons, Aisha has carved her legend in O’Hara basketball in a much different way.

Shabazz has made her mark as her team’s primary defender. Whether it’s diving on the floor for a loose ball, grabbing a key rebound, getting a timely steal, or making a huge defensive stop — Aisha Shabazz can be counted on to do her job. And it’s a job she takes great pride in doing.

“Really, all it is, is I just try to be whatever my team needs me to be,” Shabazz stated. “If I know my team needs that rebound or that steal — I’ve got to be the one to go and get it. ... Just to make sure our team wins. That’s all that I’m for.”

To her credit Shabazz has the maturity and self confidence to see the whole picture. She knows what her job is. That’s one of the reasons she has flourished in this role Hawks coach Dan McDermott has put her in.

“Most definitely,” said Shabazz. “Most people are like, ‘oh it’s all about the points.’ But I’m like as long as I did what I needed to do for my team and my team won, that’s all that matters to me.”

The Hawks are blessed with a talent-rich team that features a three-pronged offensive attack of Jontay Walton, Keyonte Edwards and Kelsey McCarthy — who are all 1,000 point scorers. Understandably the competitor in Shabazz would love to light up the scoreboard more. But she knows that’s not her job.

Ironically, most lockdown defenders find themselves in that role because their offensive game might be lacking a bit. That’s not the case with Shabazz. She’s fast, handles the ball well, and can go shot for shot with the biggest names in Western New York. Which makes her selflessly doing the job as a defender even more impressive. And what makes Shabazz the kind of player any coach would be proud to have.

“There’s nobody that outworks her,” said McDermott. “She’s out there getting steals, getting deflections, getting rebounds she has no business getting. She’s one of the best shooters on the team. Unfortunately it doesn’t always add up as far as her getting her name in the paper and getting recognition, but she truly deserves it. If she was on any other team in Western New York she’d probably be their No. 1 player. ... We let her know everyday how much we appreciate her and how valuable she is to the team.”

McDermott said he is very thankful for the mature, classy, and dignified way Shabazz has handled her job, because he knows it only takes one unhappy player to unravel the fabric of a strong team.

When Shabazz puts the wrap on her scholastic career she might not have a scrapbook filled with news paper clippings featuring her name. But she will have undying respect and appreciation of the people around her who knew how hard she worked for the team.

“It’s definitely uplifting to know that they notice what I’m doing and that I’m doing it for them,” Shabazz said. “It’s definitely uplifting.”