Gophers forward declares for WNBA draft

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 6, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. — Minnesota sophomore Amanda Zahui B. is turning pro.

Zahui B., a 6-foot-5 All-American center, could be the top pick in the April 16 WNBA draft.

“Over the past few years I’ve learned a lot about making difficult decisions involving my life, education, and future starting with a major move from my home country to the United States,” Zahui B. said in a release from the school Monday. “Though challenging, that initial decision has proved to be a step in the right direction.

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“I am most grateful for the University of Minnesota and the Golden Gopher basketball program and athletic department for believing in me and welcoming me as I sought to make something great of my life and grooming my talents further.”

The WNBA has strict rules about underclassmen entering the draft. Zahui B. is from Sweden and is eligible because she will turn 22 during the calendar year of the draft.

Zahui B. had until Monday at 11:59 p.m. to declare herself eligible.

She averaged 18.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 4.1 blocks this season. Zahui B. was fourth in the nation in rebounding and helped guide the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

“We are extremely proud of Amanda and the opportunities that await her professional career,” said Gophers coach Marlene Stollings. “In just a short amount of time, her maturity and skills advanced greatly, culminating in this incredible opportunity. Our entire staff worked diligently to help Amanda grow both on and off the court resulting in this amazing next step in her life.”

Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd also is 22 and could enter the draft early. While she has until Wednesday to declare because she is in the national championship game, Notre Dame associate media relations director Chris Masters said Loyd is “100 percent staying”.

While the top WNBA salary for rookies is just under $50,000, Zahui B. could make a few hundred thousand dollars playing overseas.

“That is awesome for her. It is going to be a different look and congrats to her and all the best the luck to her,” said UConn senior Kiah Stokes, who is projected to go in the first round. “I never thought I’d see somebody do that in the women’s game especially since the pay is so different from the women’s and men’s side. She is good, she finishes well and has good footwork.”

She isn’t the first women’s player to leave school early to turn pro. Candace Parker left Tennessee after her junior season and was the No. 1 pick in the draft in 2008. Epiphanny Prince also left Rutgers after her junior year, but she wasn’t allowed to enter the draft that year because she didn’t meet the requirements. She had not turned 22 or graduated from college and was not four years removed from high school.