Amanda Zahui B. said she was "speechless'' Monday when she learned she had been named Big Ten player of the year by the media. The Gophers' sophomore center also was the only unanimous choice for first-team all-Big Ten honors by both coaches and media as the league's annual awards were announced on the Big Ten Network.
Senior forward Shae Kelley was a first-team pick by media and a second-team pick by coaches. Forward Carlie Wagner was named to the all-freshman team, and Zahui made the all-defensive team. Zahui is the fourth Gophers player to be named Big Ten player of the year and the first since Lindsay Whalen in 2002.
Zahui, the Big Ten's freshman of the year in 2014, joins Whalen, Carol Ann Shudlick (1994) and Laura Coenen (1983) as the only Gophers to take home the Big Ten's biggest individual prize. She leads the league with 12.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots per game and is fourth in scoring with 18.5 points per game.
The full list of winners is here:
Best line of the show announcing the awards: Zahui revealing that she has a box of Swedish chocolates under her bed, which will remain untouched until the season ends. When she was congratulated for her discipline and diligence in maintaining a healthy diet--one reason for her improvement this season--she said the box has "a lot of tape around it.''
Also on the show, Big Ten Network analyst Vera Jones picked the Gophers as her choice for "most intriguing team'' of the Big Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday. The Gophers open play Thursday night against the winner of Wednesday's Purdue-Wisconsin game.
I will be doing interviews shortly with some of the Gophers' honorees. Check startribune.com for more complete coverage of the awards, as well as full coverage of the tournament, beginning Wednesday.