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St. Paul basketball team crushes stereotypes on championship march


FOX 9 News
Friday, February 22, 2013

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One girls' basketball team in St. Paul is earning a reputation as the local dream team, but their performance on the court is only part of the reason why.

In a game defined by the boundaries of the court, the players on the Jimmy Lee team have no such limits -- and the woman who leads them understands that the only thing better than living your own dream is helping others achieve theirs.

The team is practicing for this weekend's championship playoffs after being last year's runner up, but their volunteer coach, Fartun Osman, said that while capturing a trophy would be nice, crushing stereotypes is even better.

Osman said some teams even underestimate her team -- until they see the girls take their first shots.

"They assume right away -- say, 'They're Somali. They're wearing the hijab. We can beat them easily," Osman said. "You know what? Go over there. Show them what you can do."

What makes the team so special isn't their winning streak or championship ambitions -- it's the dream that began decades ago in Somalia.

"If I did it in my own country, why not here now?" Osman asked.

Osman grew up in Somalia with eight brothers. By age three, she was playing soccer and dreaming of being a female Pele -- but by 13, she was playing professional basketball in an African league. After the civil war, she came to America and ironically, found even more resistance.

"When it comes to Muslim girls, they think all she can do is stay home and cook and clean," Osman said. "I'm telling the world our girls can do better than that."

Now, her own daughters are playing in the league -- and some are hoping for a professional career like the one their coach had. Others are interested in scholarships, but along the way, they learned something far more valuable -- that boundaries don't define you, your passion does.

"Nothing is going to stop them, so like it or not, here we come," Osman said.

The semi-finals and finals will be held at the Jimmy Lee Rec Center in St. Paul.


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