Amanda Zahui B. ought to ask another Swedish icon, IKEA, to send her a bookcase. Better make it an extra-large one. The Gophers sophomore center received another big honor Friday when espnW named her a first-team all-American, putting Zahui in some extraordinary company while adding more plaques and trophies to a growing collection.
Joining her on espnW's first team were Baylor sophomore forward Nina Davis, Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd, South Carolina junior guard Tiffany Mitchell and UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart. Within the past couple of weeks, Zahui has been named the Big Ten player of the year by the media; was the only unanimous selection to the all-Big Ten first team; made the Big Ten all-defensive team; was named to the all-Big Ten Tournament team; became one of 15 players on the ballot for the Wooden Award; and was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy.
Zahui is the first Gopher to become a first-team all-American since Janel McCarville in 2005. Only four other Gophers have been first-team all-Americans: Lindsay Whalen (2003, 2004), McCarville (2004, 2005), Laura Coenen (1985) and Carol Ann Shudlick (1994).
espnW's Graham Hays, who was among the group of espnW staffers who selected the teams, had this to say about Zahui. "There were nights when Minnesota's Big Ten opponents simply couldn't deal with Zahui B., like she was a middle schooler playing with elementary school students at recess. Zahui B. is big and quick in the post, averaging 18.8 points,12.6 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game, but the relentlessness with which she attacks the basket, with the ball or in pursuit of it, sets her apart.''
The website chose Loyd as its player of the year, Ohio State guard Kelsey Mitchell as freshman of the year and Florida State's Sue Semrau as coach of the year. The award recipients were selected by espnW women's basketball experts Mechelle Voepel, Charlie Creme, Michelle Smith and Hays.
Here is a link to espnW's slideshow on the all-America team: http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/slideshow/12473370/1/2015-women-college-basketball-espnw-all-america-teams
Second-team selections were Kelsey Mitchell, UConn junior guard Moriah Jefferson, Iowa senior guard Samantha Logic, UConn senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Duke senior center Elizabeth Williams.
The Gophers returned to the practice floor Thursday to tune up for an expected berth in the NCAA tournament. Coach Marlene Stollings gave them a few days off after the Big Ten tournament to rest and let some minor injuries heal. The tournament begins next Friday with first-round games at campus sites.
The Gophers haven't played since last Friday's loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. Now that they're back in the gym, Stollings said, they will work to maintain their conditioning and use the time before the NCAA tournament to add a couple of twists to their repertoire.
"We want to make sure we keep our legs under us,'' Stollings said. "We'll do a lot of scrimmaging over the next two or three practices and make sure we're game-ready. We'll also look at putting in some new plays, some tweaks defensively, to make sure we have some new stuff going into the tournament. We like to do that when we have time like this.''
The coach and the players all are excited about hosting a party at Williams Arena to watch Monday's NCAA tournament selection show. The event is open to the public and includes free pizza, chips, ice cream and soda, as well as free T-shirts. The center scoreboard will be lowered and used as a giant-screen TV to watch the 6 p.m. show; the team will be seated on the court, and fans can sit in section 106 behind the scorers' table. There will be a trivia contest with prizes, and Stollings will do her weekly radio show from the court after the selection show at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
We'll have full coverage of Selection Monday in the Star Tribune and at startribune.com, including a Monday feature on fifth-year senior Shae Kelley and how she decided to transfer to Minnesota to play her final college season.