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The North Carolina A&T Aggies women's volleyball team is slated to be at Boston College this weekend for the National Invitational Volleyball Championships.
They will do so with heavy hearts as redshirt senior Fatimah Shabazz, a Cincinnatian from Northwest High School, died Sunday as the team prepared for the tournament. Shabazz had just turned 22 in September.
— N.C. A&T Athletics (@NCATAGGIES) November 30, 2021
From the university's release:
"North Carolina A&T volleyball player Fatimah Shabazz died of complications from an aneurysm on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, as announced by the N.C. A&T Department of Athletics on Tuesday.
"We are heartbroken by Fatimah’s passing,” A&T coach Hal Clifton said. “Nothing prepares you for moments like this. Fatimah was an amazing person once you got to know her. She was a fierce competitor on the court but a very sweet person off the court.
"The passing of Fatimah is a great loss to us all and will leave a hole in our hearts. She will never be forgotten and will be missed dearly. I ask that you please continue to hold Fatimah, her mom and all of her family in your hearts, thoughts and prayers during this time of need.”
Shabazz last played Nov. 19 in the team's Big South semifinal win over South Carolina-Upstate. She was third on the team in kills with 204 during the season and third in blocks with 64. In her final season, North Carolina A&T was 20-10 (11-5 Big South).
The 2017 Northwest High School graduate came to the Aggies at the same time all-league teammates Edie Brewer and Courtney Pitt arrived in Greensboro. Together they hung banners in the school's gym.
“Fatimah, my sweet girl, could make anyone laugh at any time of the day,” Pitt said. “She was the sweetest friend to me and so competitive on the court. I will always remember the joy she brought to me each and every day.”
Said Brewer, “Fatimah was inspirational, and she cared about many people. She was the funniest person ever, and we will love her forever.”
Shabazz was a 6-foot right-side hitter for the Aggies. Previously in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, she helped lead the Aggies to a spring 2021 league championship (the 2020 fall season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic) and an NCAA appearance. In 2019, she helped the squad reach the National Invitational Volleyball Championships for the first time in school history.
Shabazz had been with the program since 2017 when she redshirted. On the school's athletic website, Clifton said he knew Shabazz would be a good fit for the North Carolina A&T program the first time he saw her play.
Tuesday, he had to notify his team they wouldn't see her play anymore.
At Northwest High School, she played four years of volleyball and also participated in basketball and track and field. The Northwest Local School District released the following statement late Tuesday:
"We are greatly saddened to hear of Fatimah’s passing. Fatimah was a true competitor and leader while at Northwest setting high expectations for herself and her teammates. Her passion and leadership allowed her to have a great deal of success and helped set a foundation of successful seasons for our programs upon her graduation."
The release went on to say what a great ambassador to Northwest Shabazz was as she also maintained a Top 10 GPA and participated in Student Senate.
In volleyball, Shabazz was the Southwest Ohio Conference Player of the Year in 2014 and shared those honors in 2016. She also was a Cincinnati Enquirer Female Athlete of the Year nominee in 2016.
In basketball, she was SWOC Player of the Year as a junior for the Knights in 2016, averaging 23.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. She averaged 22.1 points to lead the SWOC again in 2017 and 9.5 rebounds.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to support Fatimah's family during this difficult time.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced. The A&T Counseling Center, located in Murphy Hall, suite 109, was made available for North Carolina A&T students in need of support. Faculty and staff were encouraged to use the school's Employee Assistance Program ComPsych resources.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: North Carolina A&T, ex-Northwest volleyball star Fatimah Shabazz dies