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A CBE Student’s Impact on March Madness

This is a modified version of the article originally published by Lindsay Gibbs in Power Plays.

March Madness has officially taken over the country, and CBE’s own Jannah Eissa is making waves on the court for No. 3 N.C. State’s women’s basketball team.

Jannah Eissa on the court during the ACC tournament
Jannah Eissa on the court during the 2024 ACC tournament. Credit: Mitchell Norman

Eissa, a first-year chemical engineering undergrad, is a walk-on on the N.C. State women’s team. She was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, and is the first basketball player in ACC history to wear a hijab on the court. She’s one of a small-but-growing number of hijab-wearing women playing NCAA Division I basketball.

Eissa comes next in a line of trailblazing women within the NCAA to wear a hijab while playing. This year during the NCAA tournament, two players will be wearing a hijab – Eissa and Diaba Konaté, a French point guard who will play for No. 13 University of California, Irvine. Eissa is proud to wear a hijab, and cherishes the visibility that playing at a school like N.C. State and in a tournament like the NCAA championships will provide.

“It definitely means a lot because you’re representing a whole lot of women and a whole religion,” she told Power Plays this week. 

All year long, she’s felt how much her presence on the team matters. This season, a group of young, Muslim girls came to a few N.C. State games just to support her.

“After they saw my posts, they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, there’s a hijabi girl on the N.C. State team, we want to go watch!’ I have very cute pictures with them,” she said. “They think that — and it’s actually true — that your hijab is not going to stop you from doing anything. You can make it anywhere.”

Eissa’s father heavily influenced her decision to come to N.C. State as a fellow CBE alumni himself. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering, working under Dr. Saad Khan, from the department in 2005. She also has two older sisters that attend the university.

This year, March Madness coincides with Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims where they fast from sun up to sun down every day. Since Egypt is a majority-Muslim country, Eissa is used to living in a place where schedules shift for everyone during Ramadan — in sports, this means practices and games are usually scheduled at night. But that is not the case in the United States. That’s made this Ramadan a little bit more difficult. But she’s also found it to be empowering — especially watching other Muslim athletes, like Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks and N.C. State men’s basketball player Mohamed Diarra, achieve great athletic success while fasting.

N.C. State won their first-round game on Saturday, March 23rd against No. 14 Chattanooga and will play No. 6 Tennessee today, Monday, March 25th in Raleigh inside of Reynolds Coliseum. 

Congratulations, Jannah, on the success and happiness you have found within N.C. State athletics! The CBE department will be cheering you on from the stands!