“Open gym fell on a Saturday and lucky for me my mother was busy that day and my father agreed to take me,” said Belibi, who was a freshman on that auspicious September day. She now attends Stanford, where she plays basketball on a full scholarship. The Cardinal recently won the national NCAA championship for the first time in 29 years.
“I didn’t yet know a layup from a free-throw, but I stood out because I was tall and could jump really high. So suddenly, I went from a student who did school and played tennis on the side, to someone who wanted to play basketball and could maybe even go to college for basketball. That day changed how I saw myself and how I saw achieving my goals.”
Belibi practiced hard, and by sophomore year became the first female high school player in Colorado to dunk the ball during game play. Now, she’s the eighth woman ever to make that shot in the history of college basketball. Academics are also important. “I’d always been drawn to science and math,” she said, “but at Regis I found I liked everything: the humanities, history, all of my English classes and all of the teachers who taught me.” She said the structure of longer class blocks, combined with the rigor and high expectations, prepared her for Stanford—as a student, an athlete and leader.
Belibi is modest about her success, and she easily shares the credit: with her teammates, her coaches, her family, her teachers and God.
“Everything I’ve accomplished is because of His protection and His blessing,” she said. “God softened my parents’ hearts so I could play. And science will tell you it’s hard for women to dunk a basketball because of the shape of our hips, and how much muscle power is needed. I have big hands and long arms, but I’m only 6’1” and there’s no way I should be able to get myself that high. At the end of the day, it’s pretty miraculous that I can dunk.”
But Belibi isn’t letting one sensational shot define her. She’s majoring in human biology and plans to become a pediatrician like her mother, rather than turning pro. “Dunking is cool, there’s no doubt about it, but I’m still me. I’m a sister. I’m a teenager. I watch a lot of Netflix. I cook and bake. I wish I could read more. And I’m kind of funny. In fact, I think I’m hilarious, though my family might disagree.”
For now, Belibi is planning a few moves into the future. She’s taking courses in physiology, adolescent brain development and the art of pediatric diagnosis. She said, “I want to understand how humans become who they are, which starts with children. Kids are the ones who will fix the mistakes we make, so it will be important to empower them.”
Belibi says her career in medicine will combine science and faith. “People assume you can only believe in God or in science, but the world shouldn’t put so much emphasis on either or. In science, first you see it and then you believe it. Faith is believing in something you can’t necessarily see. There are so many aspects of medicine that are science, but at the end of the day, I still believe in miracles.”