At 5-foot-2, Westland High School senior guard Shukri Abdikadir faces a height disadvantage every time she steps onto the court for the girls basketball team.
She uses her quickness and knowledge of the game to compensate for her diminutive stature, averaging 6.7 points and 6.0 rebounds while setting a positive example for a team that was 3-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 11.
"I tell her she's a leader on this team," coach Matt Jaynes said. "(Abdikadir) and Atira (Hoard) have been our backbones."
Abdikadir had a season-high 13 points in a 52-36 win over Franklin Heights in the opener Nov. 27.
She had 12 points in a 49-31 victory over Briggs in the West Side Classic on Dec. 29 at home.
"My goal is to be better: don't give up, keep going, mental toughness," she said.
Abdikadir is part of a diverse community at Westland, as she was born in Kenya and moved to Columbus before attending kindergarten. Her family is Muslim and Abdikadir wears a hijab.
"I've always worn this and I always will," she said.
Referees have questioned the need for the hijab on several occasions, forcing Jaynes to file his concerns with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Jaynes has sent multiple letters, each resulting in a waiver clearing Abdikadir to wear the head covering. Despite the repeated waivers, Abdikadir again was questioned before a game against Whetstone on Nov. 30.
"We have to match her head gear to our head bands," Jaynes said. "It's not any added stress because I love them all, but it's more why do (referees) question it. It's frustrating because we're in 2019. There's no reason why that should ever happen. ... It's had her older sister, Fatuma, in tears. It's had (Abdikadir) in tears."
Abdikadir said she receives positive reactions from schoolmates -- and teammates -- regarding her religious beliefs.
"When people see me they ask me why do I wear that and I just tell them why," she said. "It's for religious reasons."
Abdikadir decided not to play basketball as a sophomore so she could focus on academics. She has raised her GPA from 1.5 to 3.0.
Although her parents, Maryan Galbet and Abdisalam Said, don't speak English, Abdikadir and her siblings speak "perfect" English, Jaynes said.
"It says a lot for them to be here and wanting to adapt to our culture and we have done that as well," he said. "We have adapted to their culture in what she wants."
Abdikadir has a long relationship with Jaynes, as they met when she was in sixth grade at Wedgewood Middle School, which is part of Columbus City Schools. Jaynes was the coach at Briggs and guiding Fatuma, who averaged 9.5 points as a senior.
Shukri Abdikadir played at the junior varsity level at Briggs as a freshman.
"(Jaynes is) like a second dad to me," she said. "He means a lot to me."
Another sister, Khadija, was a teammate last season at Westland before graduating in 2018.
"I'm proud of the whole family," Jaynes said. "It's tough when you get kids that aren't used to basketball. ... Her whole family is just workhorses. They have a great relationship with their mother. Even though she doesn't speak English, every time she sees me she gives me a big hug and is always smiling."
The family also has faced tragedy. Shukri's brother, Abdikadir Abdikadir, was killed in a shooting in 2016 while he was a student at Columbus West.
Boys basketball team upends Falcons
The boys basketball team earned its second win of the season, defeating Franklin Heights 57-52 on Jan. 8.
DeShawn Evans scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Cougars, who were 2-9 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 11.
Wrestlers place fourth at Scioto
The wrestling team finished fourth (120.5 points) in the 16-team Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament on Jan. 5 at Dublin Scioto behind champion Centerville (222.5).
Jakob Hurley won the title at 138 pounds. Andrew Sherman was second at 195, Tyler Jude was third at 106 and Edgar Cruz finished third at 120.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 15 -- Home vs. Grandview
*Jan. 18 -- Home vs. Marysville. The Cougars lost to the Monarchs 66-42 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 19 -- Home vs. KIPP Columbus
Jan. 16 -- At Hamilton Township
*Jan. 17 -- At Marysville. The Cougars lost to the Monarchs 61-35 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 16 -- At *Marysville with Central Crossing, Franklin Heights and Grove City
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 19 -- Central Crossing and Groveport at Urbancrest YMCA
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 19 -- Hamilton Township Invitational