Junior, Public Administration
College of Liberal Arts
Najat Ouardad, a native of Orleans, France, joined the Auburn women's basketball team as part of the 2011-12 recruiting class. Her father, Mohammed, was a professional soccer player in Morocco and most of her five brothers and sisters participated in basketball, soccer, volleyball and track. But for Najat, basketball was her favorite. She played for the French National Team before moving to the United States for her sophomore year of high school. At Forsyth Country Day in Lewisville, N.C., Ouardad helped lead the team to back-to-back state championship appearances. She transferred to Oak Ridge Military Academy in Oak Ridge, N.C., for her senior year, where she averaged 42 points per game. Ouardad enrolled at Pensacola State College in Florida and became an integral part of the Lady Pirates. Last year, she led the team to an undefeated season in the Panhandle Conference, and a third-place finish at the 2011 NJCAA National Basketball Championship, with a 36-1 record. Ouardad was recruited by Auburn, where she is majoring in public administration. Listed at only 5 feet 1 inch, she is the starting point guard for the Tigers.
1. Of all the sports played by you and your siblings, why did you focus on basketball? Did the fact that people said you couldn't be good at it motivate you to prove them wrong?
Basketball is the only sport that makes me feel good about myself. Just the whole aspect of proving people wrong really fit my personality. I was short (I still am short) but I played all the sports and basketball was the one that stuck out. That was my motivation; the main thing. It really built my character of who I am today, not just in basketball, but in everything else as well.
2. You had a notable career start on the French National Team, in high school in North Carolina and at Pensacola State College. Was being recruited to a Division 1 school in the United States a goal all along?
Eventually, yes. I was not planning to come to the States, but when my cousin asked me to come to the States, it became my goal to reach the highest level. I feel really blessed to be at Auburn today and I feel like I have accomplished one of my goals. It proved to me that I could prove people wrong by being the shortest point guard in Division I basketball. That is why my confidence is high.
3. Why did you agree to come to Auburn and play for Coach Nell Fortner?
Auburn is a beautiful school. The history about it is very impressive. I never heard about traditions and such where I am from and I love that about this school. When I came on my visit, they told me about Toomer's Corner and I thought that was really neat. People know me when I walk around campus because it's small, but not small at the same time, so it feels like home. Also playing for Coach Fortner was one of the best decisions I have made because she is always teaching me something new. It was not just because of her resume or what she has accomplished, but she is just a great coach and her enthusiasm is always there. Her will to want to get the best out of you is really what I love about her. I would want to coach one day and she not only teaches me on the court, but she also teaches me how to handle life situations.
4. It can't be easy to face down opponents who are a foot taller than you. So how do you use your height to your advantage?
The first thing people think when playing against me is that they will just post me up and call it a day, but I am feisty so you are going to have to work hard. I use being small as an advantage because no one likes someone on their body 24/7. It is aggravating. I like being short playing against tall people because even if they scout me, they haven't experienced it yet. I feel like I use my height to my advantage.
5. What would you like to do with your degree in public administration and/or your basketball skills after you leave Auburn?
I always wanted to play ball. My main goal is to play professionally, but also when I'm done with basketball, I would like to coach. I will use my degree eventually to work one day after I'm done with basketball. I would like to represent a brand or company because I can speak many languages and played basketball. I can speak five languages and that gives me a lot of versatility to go out and communicate with all different types of people and that is something I enjoy doing.