‘Nothing prepares you.’ NC college volleyball team mourns death of star player

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A college volleyball team in North Carolina is mourning the death of its 22-year-old star player.

Fatimah Shabazz died on Nov. 28 due to complications from a brain aneurysm, the North Carolina A&T State University Department of Athletics said in news release on Nov. 30.

Shabazz “came off the court complaining of a headache” during a volleyball game on Nov. 19, according to her GoFundMe page. She suffered from an aneurysm, which causes internal bleeding in the brain, and spent a week battling the illness.

“We are heartbroken by Fatimah’s passing,” A&T coach Hal Clifton said in the news release. “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.”

Shabazz came from Cincinnati, Ohio in 2017 to major in pre-law/liberal studies at North Carolina A&T, also known as “AggieLand,” university officials said. She received a scholarship to play with the school’s volleyball team, according to her GoFundMe page.

She graduated with a 3.71-grade point average — and was a first-semester graduate student when she died, university officials said.

One of the ‘best players’

Shabazz had “developed into one of the best players in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference,” according to the news release.

In the spring 2021 season “she led the MEAC in kills per set (3.69), ranked fifth in the league in hitting percentage (.336) and ninth in blocks per set (0.64),” the news release said.

She also “earned first-team All-MEAC during the spring of 2021, and earned the team’s volleyball offensive player of the year award at the 2021 Aggie ESPYs.”

Shabazz was “part of one of the most successful classes” to play volleyball, the university’s athletic department said. Shabazz, along with players Edie Brewer and Courteney Pitt, helped the program “achieve heights never seen before in school history.”

Her performance helped the Aggies win their first-ever conference tournament championship and advance to the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament for the first time, university officials said.

‘The sweetest friend’

Teammates Pitt and Brewer remembered Shabazz as a kind person who helped them hang countless banners in Moore Gymnasium.

“Fatimah, my sweet girl, could make anyone laugh at any time of the day,” Pitt said in the news release. “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.”

Brewer told university officials that Shabazz was “inspirational and “cared about many people. She was the funniest person ever, and we will love her forever.”

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