Concord athlete Muji Vader has an origin story as big as her talent

Adopted from a Congo orphanage, Muji Vader has risen to stardom on the Minuteman High girls basketball team.
March 30, 2024

By Richard Fahlander — Correspondent   

March Madness is in full swing, and many fans are going crazier than ever for women’s hoops. Even casual viewers are following the exploits of prime-time players like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, and JuJu Watkins.   

Perhaps one day, Concord’s own budding basketball superstar will have her chance to play in the big dance.   

Muji Vader, a 16-year-old Minuteman High School sophomore, lit up the league this season and was named MVP of the Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small Division.   

But there’s nothing small about her remarkable accomplishments.   

Muji Vader. Courtesy photo

Her journey to the gym began at an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she played outdoor games with older boys. After being adopted by Bre and Dave Vader, 9-year-old Muji and brother Joey moved to Concord, where she dribbled her first basketball.   

Muji quickly embraced running. She won many races, but it was at Emerson Playground that basketball became her true passion.   

Her mom recounts how local coach Mark Williams saw Muji pedal over on her bike with a ball under her arm and practice, practice, practice. He was struck by how well she interacted with adults and her eagerness to learn and to be coached.   

Courtesy photo

The team aspect of basketball is what moves Muji the most. 

“On the team, there’s people that are good at different things, [and] when you bring those together, it’s really amazing,” she says.

“I like seeing my teammates shine… I like being [a] part of their journey and just having fun together.”  

While she loves the quick pace of basketball, it’s also reflective and soothing.

“For me, it’s kind of like therapy,” says Muji.

“Whenever I feel bad, [I’ll] just put on headphones and shoot free throws or do layups. It really just takes your mind off of stuff.” 

When she’s not lighting up the court, Muji partakes of the teen standards: “We go to the mall, we go watch movies, we hang out.”  

Family time means board games, films, or the service projects central to the Vaders’ Baha’i faith.  

Awarding Muji the team’s MVP honor, Minuteman High School coach Nicole Deveraux said the choice was clear: “She was our facilitator on the court. Our go-to scorer, go-to ball handler… This year, she absolutely owned the court.”  

Courtesy photo

The Vaders homeschooled their children during the Covid lockdown. When it came time for them to enroll in high school, Minuteman fit the bill.   

Muji is enrolled in culinary arts and hopes to play college ball, with a dream of becoming a coach.

Brother Joey, also a sophomore, is on the boys’ basketball team and studies electrical engineering.   

The family’s commitment to service continues this summer with a journey to Jamaica to help run a youth basketball camp and to a Ugandan vocational school where Muji and Joey will share their culinary and electrical engineering skills with other students.   

Bre Vader says bringing Muji and Joey into the family widened everyone’s horizons — including when it comes to sports.

“I didn’t really know much about basketball, and now, after a game, I come home hoarse,” she says. 

“That energy that [Muji] brings and the positivity and the encouragement that she brings to her team — that’s what makes me the most proud.” 

— Celeste Katz Marston contributed reporting.

Muji Vader’s biographical video via YouTube