After playing for Sweden in FIBA Women’s EuroBasket Tournament, Amanda Zahui B rejoins the New York Liberty this week. It’s perfect timing for New York — after a 90-58 loss to the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday, the team needs the spark and presence that she provides. After four up-and-down seasons in the WNBA, the center has found her footing, and her contributions will be key while the Liberty try to capture a playoff spot.
Through nine games this season, Zahui B is averaging career-highs in field goal percentage (50.6%), three-point percentage (40.0%), rebounds per game (7.8), blocks per game (2.3), and points per game (11.4). Although she has shown signs of promise on offense throughout her career, her defensive improvement is startling; she has never averaged more than 0.6 blocks per game in a season. This kind of rim protection will surely take New York’s defense to new heights.
At 6’5” and 250 pounds, Zahui B can muscle defenders out of the way in the paint. She finishes through contact, barely being affected or moved off her line to the bucket. The 25-year-old also boasts an impressively effective jump shot for a center at her size, releasing outside attempts from above her head that rip right through the net. She can consistently make three pointers at an above-average rate, which opens up the Liberty’s offense and creates room for Tina Charles to operate.
Zahui B was selected second overall in the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock after a dominant career at the University of Minnesota. The Shock expected her to replicate her collegiate supremacy down low—scoring points in bunches and blocking shots left and right. But the transition into the WNBA proved challenging for her. As a rookie, she averaged only 3.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game on 36.1% shooting. She struggled to get playing time and averaged only 5.9 minutes in Tulsa’s two playoff games.
“It was just finding out who I was going to be as a professional athlete,” Zahui B said to CBS Local Sports about her time in Tulsa, “and not just be a post player like I had been in the past.”
After the season ended and the Shock moved to Dallas, becoming the Wings, the team traded Zahui B and a second-round draft pick to the Liberty for a first-rounder. This move gave the center a chance to start over and establish herself in the league. And her second season was an improvement: several of her statistics ticked upward as she averaged 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game while shooting 44.9% from the court. Still, it seemed apparent that Zahui B could be more than a solid deep-bench player.
In 2017, she averaged 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 5.3 minutes per game, but then erupted the next year, showing that she had learned how to handle herself against WNBA competition. Zahui B featured her outside shot as a new weapon—she took 61 three-pointers, by far the most of her career, and made 34.4% of them. The Liberty’s blossoming talent averaged 7.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 15.9 minutes per game. New York struggled and finished the season with a 7-27 record, but their improving center was an obvious bright spot.
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 25, 2016
And now, Zahui B continues to improve. She obliterated the Los Angeles Sparks in an impressive Liberty win earlier this year, scoring a sparkling 37 points and making seven out of eight three-pointers and 13 of 16 overall shot attempts. No one on the talented Sparks squad could stop her inside the paint or outside the perimeter.
“I used to focus on the future, and I’ve learned that it really doesn’t benefit me,” Zahui B told CBS Local Sports. “I’ve learned that I have to focus on me in the moment, and that’s the only way I’m going to be successful on and off the court.”
Well, for the present, Zahui B is quite a threat on both sides of the ball and the Liberty are thrilled to have her back in the lineup. Between her and Tina Charles, New York has a frontcourt combination that no one should want to face.