COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – At 15, Fran Belibi did something that would make even Kim Kardashian jealous: she broke the internet. At least in relative terms to girls basketball, that’s what Belibi did.
She was the first girl in Colorado High School Basketball history to dunk, and the video of the play, which saw the 6-1 forward steal the ball add a transition stagger and lay down a one-hand finish, went mega-viral.
Now Belibi is heading to Argentina for the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, which begins this week.
“It’s a really great opportunity to put Denver on the map,” Belibi said. “Not too many big name basketball players have come out of Denver. To be able to represent my country from Denver is a really great opportunity for me.”
Belibi plays her high school ball just up the road from where Team USA was training in Colorado Springs. A Regis Jesuit Raider (Aurora, Colo.) she averaged 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.6 steals and 3.2 blocks per game as a sophomore. Her efforts were hampered by an early season ankle injury, but she still helped her team to a 20-7 record and a state tournament semifinals appearance.
Perhaps crazier than the dunk is Belibi’s accession. In just her second year of playing basketball, she has already accomplished this much and donned her country’s colors.
“It doesn’t look like she’s only played basketball for two years,” USA U16 head coach Carla Berube said. “She soaks everything in. You tell her to do something on the floor and right away she does that. She’s a really smart and cerebral kid and she’s getting better every day.”
Berube is the head coach at Tufts University and has been involved with USA Basketball on and off dating back to a bronze medal she earned as a player in 1994 for the U.S. Olympic Festival East Team.
“It’s really fun as a coach. She’s extremely athletic and she can change games just using her athleticism,” Berube said. “But she’s more than that. She works hard and has a real nice touch and she catches every ball. She’s got a really bright future.”
“I think I was really blessed to start with the coaches and teammates that I’ve had and the abilities I was blessed with,” Belibi said. “The hard work has been really fulfilling. To work and to get here; it is really fulfilling.”
Yet it’s the dunk that everyone who sees Belibi wants to talk about.
“The first dunk was unplanned, I wasn’t expecting to do it, it wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to dunk today, I’m going to dunk right now,’” she remembered. “It just happened, but it happened and I’m known for that now. It’s really great and maybe more people will watch girls basketball because of it.”
Belibi was shocked by the notoriety the dunks—yes she did it twice—earned her.
“I’m still just a regular kid that goes to practice, does chores and homework but now just a few more people know who I am,” she said.
Just a few, or millions based on a quick peruse through the internet, but Belibi doesn’t want that to be the only part of her game people know her for.
“I’m pretty athletic,” Belibi said. “I run up and down and try to hustle. I do the dirty jobs, rebounding, blocking, getting knocked in the face. I score here and there, but it’s not just the dunk.”