When she began playing basketball, Amanda didn’t know much about it. “Michael Jordan — that was it,’’ she said. “As I learned, I found out about Pau Gasol’s game, and began following him. Now Janel is my role model. She’s in my head. I love the way she passes and reads the game.’’
Zahui B. figured the best way to professional basketball was through an American college. Highly recruited after dominating in Europe, she set up visits to Minnesota, Louisville and Washington.
Gophers coach Pam Borton impressed her parents, and Amanda saw the bridges spanning the Mississippi and felt at home. “It’s a really beautiful downtown,’’ she said. “It reminds me of Sweden.’’
She called her parents during her visit and said she would visit Louisville and Washington as a courtesy but that she had found her school, even if she wishes she could order takeout from a continent away.
“I just miss my food!’’ she said, laughing. “Swedish food. I miss my mom’s cooking. She makes this chicken-sauce thingy with rice. And my father makes African food. I miss Swedish breakfasts. There are a lot of greasy foods over here. And our yogurt is different. So much better. Sorry about that.’’
The basketball is different, too. Banham said Europeans tend to play a less-structured, more free-flowing style, and Banham, Borton and Zahui B. all noted that Americans emphasize different styles of footwork, especially in the post.
The American game tends to be rougher, too, which is why Borton is glad that Zahui B. spent the second semester of last season acclimating to Minnesota. “I think she went through a difficult adjustment when she came over in December,’’ Borton said. “She had to adjust to the speed of the game and the physicality, and learning the plays and the style of play over here. I think she wondered, ‘Why do I have to take these types of classes, and why do I have to run these types of plays?’
“Being here last year helped her get the cobwebs out. I feel like Amanda is my own daughter. I have a great sense of responsibility, bringing her over here. She has come a long way, and she has a long way to go.’’
That Amanda has adjusted shouldn’t be surprising. She traveled to the Ivory Coast and all over Europe. “We have spent the last 10 years traveling with our children,’’ her mother said. “We don’t go to resorts. We don’t go to holidays in Spain, which is very common in Sweden, that you go to Spain, Italy, France.
“No, we travel with our children, to Aaron’s soccer games and Amanda’s basketball games.’’
Amanda is eyeing a career that could take her all over the world, and she’s learned to be comfortable whether in Europe’s Scandinavia or America’s.
“We are a mixed couple,’’ her mother said. “My husband is from Africa, me from Europe, living in Scandinavia. Our children know how to understand the difficulties in other cultures but also bring out the joys. If we can bring out the best from both sides and make a cake of that, I think the results will be good.’’