Zahui B.’s decision alters team’s future

Redshirt sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. looks to go up for a shot against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.

Daily File Photo, Holly Peterson

Redshirt sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. looks to go up for a shot against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.

Grant Donald

Amanda Zahui B. will be the first sophomore in the womenâÄôs game to forgo her final two years of college. After becoming the GophersâÄô first Associated Press All-American in program history, the star center recently expressed her desire to become the best womenâÄôs player in the game. For head coach Marlene Stollings, thatâÄôs an unfortunate scenario, as Zahui B. will be pursuing the goal in a different uniform and with a paycheck. The University announced her decision to declare for the WNBA draft on Monday. âÄú[Professional basketball] has always been a thought of mine since I started playing basketball 12 years ago,âÄù Zahui B. said on Tuesday. âÄúSlowly the process just started. âĦ I really had a great season this year, and it really lifted me up and gave me the opportunity to do this.âÄù Zahui B. âÄî who averaged 18.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 4.1 blocks this season for Minnesota âÄî is projected to be one of the top picks during next weekâÄôs draft. The Stockholm, Sweden, nativeâÄôs decision to give up her final two years of eligibility also allows her to pursue a professional career with an international team during the WNBA offseason. âÄúFor womenâÄôs basketball, [overseas] is where most of the money is, and she will make quite a bit of money, projection-wise, right away,âÄù Stollings said. âÄúFor females, the opportunities arenâÄôt as great, obviously, as males in basketball, so she wants to capitalize on [her opportunities] while sheâÄôs hot.âÄù Preseason Big Ten player of the year Rachel Banham is set to return for a fifth year next season after receiving a medical redshirt. When that decision was announced, the expectations for Stollings âÄî whoâÄôs going into her second year as head coach of the Gophers âÄî were high. But with Zahui B. now gone, those lofty expectations may require some rethinking. âÄúThere were people talking that we would be in the final four next year, possibly, with [Zahui B. and BanhamâÄôs] return,âÄù Stollings said. âÄúBut again, [the team] is very supportive of [Zahui B.] and this opportunity.âÄù The decision to move on from Minnesota seems to be a popular one lately, as Zahui B. marks the sixth player to leave the Gophers in the past year. âÄúWe are very supportive of those departures and feel that they ended up at institutions that better fit their skill sets,âÄù Stollings said. âÄúItâÄôs easy to lose sight that [my coaching staff has] been here for about a year, and there was quite a bit of change in culture and progression of the program that needed to take place.âÄù With those roster spots now empty, Stollings said she will start looking to add some more recruits before next season. But for now, Stollings and the remaining Gophers are saying goodbye to the player who essentially saved their season. âÄúWhen I started playing, I said that I wanted to become the best,âÄù Zahui B. said. âÄúWhen you are the best, [the WNBA] is going to be your job. ItâÄôs going to be my job, and IâÄôm really excited about that.âÄù