Spotlight on the Gophers 100
By Charles Hallman
There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2013-14 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight these players.
This week: Freshman center Amanda Zahui B.
After sitting out last season after arriving at the University of Minnesota, one might think homesickness could be a common reoccurrence for Swedish-born Amanda Zahui B. But she says it’s not so: “I’ve been by myself since I was 15. I’m used to being away from my family,” the 6’-5” redshirt freshman center tells us.
Despite her Patti Labelle declaration of being on her own, Zahui still misses her family. “We always have cousins, uncles and aunts walking in and out. That’s the part that I miss,” she admits.
Her brother Aaron, now a 10th grader, and their parents visited the Gopher center for a few days around Christmastime. “My brother and I are very close. It was nice just to sit there and watch TV. But looking over my shoulder and seeing him was amazing,” says the young woman.
Her younger brother is a soccer player, and once upon a time it was that sport, not basketball, that she excelled in. “Soccer is so big back home. I still play it when I go back home for the summer,” continues Zahui, adding that her parents wanted her “to do something” in athletics. “There was a period when I didn’t do anything.”
As a result, Zahui’s parents advised their oldest child to find something in sports to love: “You just have to go to one practice [whether] you like it or not,” she recalls being told. “Then, if you don’t like it, try something else.”
Basketball became that “try something else” sport for her — Zahui averaged a double-double as a 13-year-old at the U16 European Championship in 2007. Four years later in 2011, she helped her squad win its second-straight Swedish League title, and she is a six-year member of her country’s national team.
Looking back, though, being redshirted offered her the time to get fully adjusted to American basketball. “Everything goes so fast in practice,” says Zahui.
“In Europe we do a lot of half-court work, and here everything is full court, fast, and everybody plays so physical. It was like, wow!” This is typical, however, for most European-trained players, female or male, where the paint is wider and everyone is expected to rely less on brawn and more on finesse.
“I don’t stress” about an occasionally poor performance “so long as we got the win,” admits Zahui. Last Saturday she recorded her 12th double-double of the season, including a career-high 18 rebounds in a Minnesota win at Northwestern.
“School is going really good, better than I thought it would go,” says Zahui when asked about her classes. “I finally found something that I am actually interested in, so I’m listening in class and I’m excited to go to class.”
Asked if she has adopted a favorite American dish, Zahui smiled: “Can I say fried chicken? We don’t have it in Sweden. I love your [chocolate chip] pancakes and your waffles, too.”
The Big Ten Conference announced Monday that Zahui has been named the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season — the most in the league so far.
Globe-tracking the Lynx
All 11 Minnesota players are overseas this off-season, a WNBA high: Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Devereaux Peters and Lindsay Whalen (Russia); Amber Harris and Lindsay Moore (Italy); Maya Moore (China); Sugar Rodgers (Israel); Monica Wright (Korea); Janel McCarville (Poland); and Rachel Jarry (Australia).
Augustus’ and Whalen’s teams respectively are in the EuroCup semifinals, which begin Feb. 27. Moore’s club made the Chinese League semis. McCarville last Saturday was a reserve in the Polish League All-Star Game.
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