Amanda Zahui B. and Shae Kelley were the only Minnesota Golden Gophers drafted this spring by WNBA teams: Tulsa and Minnesota respectively. The possibility of the two college teammates facing each other as professionals in their basketball “hometown” was squashed when Kelley was cut by the Lynx a couple of days before official rosters were set.
“She’s in good spirits,” said Zahui B. of Kelley. “God has a plan for everybody. We talked about that. Hopefully she will get picked up by someone else. She’s a great player and a great person.”
Unlike Kelley, who unfortunately got caught in a numbers game, Zahui B. was a virtual roster lock with the Shock, given the fact that she was the second overall pick in the draft.
As the first Black female basketball player who played for the Gophers to be drafted so high, Zahui B. fits nicely on her new team, Tulsa Coach Fred Williams told the MSR last week. “She’s a great person to have in our locker room,” he said after the June 5 Shock-Lynx regular-season opener.
Since her arrival in Minnesota about three years ago from her native Sweden, Zahui B. speaks loudest on the court, while off it she’s rather reticent, especially around local reporters (save the MSR) who tend to ask somewhat silly questions. Like one asked by a young reporter after her first WNBA regular-season game about being a pro, to which she responded, “I’m still working on it. It only has been two or three weeks.”
After bumping fists, a little ritual we started last season whenever we meet, the 6’-5” rookie comfortably told the MSR that she’s slowly adapting to her new position at the “4” (power forward), switching from the center spot.
“She’s a player you don’t want to rush out there,” noted Williams on her barely five-minute stint against Minnesota last week. “She’s a player who is going to learn a lot, not only from the players on our team but also the opposition she plays against.”
She got a quick lesson last week from Lynx rebounder extraordinaire Rebekkah Brunson. Although she’s naturally a physical player, Zahui B. is fast finding that college physical and pro physical are worlds apart.
“I need to be more aggressive,” she admitted. “It’s a new level. I have a lot to learn.”
“She got a taste of it,” said Williams.
Furthermore, notes the former Gopher, this includes learning how to move to “the next play” and not dwell on a missed shot, a missed rebound, or a mistake while playing. “I have to keep my team going no matter how it goes for me. Learn how to listen and take [in] all the knowledge” shared by teammates and coaches.
“I’m still trying to find out what my role will be,” said Zahui B. She knows that she’s in a learning and growing phase just barely a month into her first W season.
“I’m working to get better.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the WBNA see: WBNA News: Amanda Zahui B. back in town & more