Zanna: West’s Lone Muslim

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

736137Talib Zanna, a power forward for the University of Pittsburgh, is the only Muslim player in the West Regional of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. A native of Nigeria, Zanna moved to the United States in 2006.  A social sciences major at Pitt, Zanna is fluent in four different languages and could speak English before arriving in the United States. Early in his childhood he played soccer, but following a growth spurt and the urging of his brother, he switched to basketball at the age of 10. He was ultimately discovered by American high school coaches at a big man camp in Lagos, which was run by his mentor and former Georgetown player Godwin Owinje.
He attended Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md., where he played three seasons and helped lead the basketball team to a 21-12 record and No. 3 state ranking as a senior. He was named First Team All-MET by the Washington Post and earned Independent private school all-league honors. He averaged 14.6 points and 11.8 rebounds as a senior. He was eventually ranked the nation’s No. 53 recruit nationally by Bob Gibbons, the No. 63 player nationally by, and the number 10 center prospect by ESPN-U. Zanna ultimately chose Pitt over Villanova, Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgetown, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Providence, West Virginia, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Boston College.
Talib is the son of Zanna Awami and Maimuna Zanna. He has three brothers (Nura, Awalu, Ibrahim) and two sisters (Habiba, Maryam). His father, a successful businessman, passed away not long after he committed to Pittsburgh. Talib has a picture of his father in his locker and touches it before every game while saying a prayer for him. He also keeps a necklace in his locker that reminds him of his father.

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