It's time Minnesota sports fans got to know Amanda Zahui B. The 6-5 sophomore center from Stockholm, Sweden has been an absolute monster for Gophers women's basketball as it makes an unlikely push toward its first NCAA tournament berth in five years.
On February 17 she put up an eye-popping line of 39 points, 29 rebounds and four blocks, carrying the U of M to a victory over 13th-ranked Iowa. Four days later, it was 27 points, 27 rebounds and five blocks in a double overtime win over Michigan. After a down game at Nebraska (12 points, six rebounds), she returned to form yesterday, registering another 22 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks in a Gophers loss at Iowa.
The Gophers finished the regular season with its second-best record ever at 22-8, and that's after the team's best player, star senior guard Rachel Banham, blew out her knee in the eighth game of the season.
Watching Zahui (pronounced zow-wee) play is especially fun because she isn't afraid to show a little emotion, often fist-pumping and shouting on her way to these huge stat lines.
Apparently all that shouting has taken its toll. In an interview before Friday afternoon's practice her voice had been reduced to a scratchy whisper.
"It's just this time of the season," she explained. "I scream a lot during games so it's a little worn down."
Zahui only started playing basketball after she dabbled in a bunch of other extracurricular activities as a child. Her mom, a teacher, and dad, a truck driver who delivers ice cream, "basically begged her" to start playing basketball, and once she started she loved it.
Now she's looking more and more like a top WNBA prospect with every game, modeling her play after the Chicago Bull's Pau Gasol and former Gopher's star and current Lynx center Janel McCarville.
"We definitely want to get her the ball," says Gophers Head Coach Marlene Stollings. "I mean, shame on us if we don't."
Send news tips to Ben Johnson.