This Muslim basketball player refused to take off her hijab, opening new doors for athletes of other faiths

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir.

(CNN)Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir dreamed of playing professional basketball ever since she was a child shooting hoops in Massachusetts.

She came to life on the court, bringing with her fiery passion and an undefeatable spirit that made her a worthy opponent.
She practiced hard, studied the game and won title after title for the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield. To this day, Abdul-Qaadir, 29, holds the high school career scoring record in the state among both boys and girls, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
    At the University of Memphis and later Indiana State University, she also became the first woman to wear a hijab while playing NCAA Division I basketball.
    Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Memphis Lady Tigers guard at the time, dribbling the ball up the court against the Tulane Green Wave.
    But just as Abdul-Qaadir's professional career was about to take off, her dream was cut short by a rule that forced her to choose between the game and her religious choice to wear the Islamic headscarf.
    "For the first time in my life, I was really tested," Abdul-Qaadir told CNN. "I couldn't play professionally, so I had to make a decision. I considered taking the hijab off to play. It was a dream since I was a kid, and it was my faith keeping me from reaching my dream. I was so torn."
    Refusing to choose, Abdul-Qaadir challenged the rule prohibiting headgear larger than five inches -- a decision that would end her dream but make the game more accessible to players of different faiths.
    It would also lead Abdul-Qaadir to a new calling: teaching young girls how to become champions.

    Sacrificing her dream

    Wearing a hijab on the basketball court had never been a problem for Abdul-Qaadir. It wasn't until her senior year at Indiana State in 2013, when she was preparing to play professionally in Europe, that it became an issue.
    Her agent informed her that the International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, stipulated that no player could wear a head covering -- including the hijab -- during games.
    Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir.
    "They told me the league wanted to keep the game of basketball religiously neutral," Abdul-Qaadir said. "When we asked them why athletes who have religious tattoos, like crosses or biblical scriptures, were allowed to play, t