On Saturday, espnW's Michelle Smith reported that Minnesota redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. is exploring whether to declare early for the 2015 WNBA Draft. In Smith's article, Zahui B. never said that she wouldn't declare, where she said "I don't really know. I'm taking it one day at a time."
Zahui B.'s statement or perceived indecisiveness leaves open the possibility that the 2015 WNBA Draft could have some reinforcements. We examined whether Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd would leave after this season, which I think is unlikely. Let's take a look at what makes Zahui B. eligible for the draft:
Why Zahui B. can declare for the WNBA Draft by Monday
According to Article XIII, Section I, Part (b) in the current WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, any college basketball who isn't a college graduate must declare for the draft no later than 10 days before the Draft, or on April 6. The 24 hour rule in Part (c) doesn't apply to Zahui B. because the Gophers were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Of those players who declare by April 6, they must be 22 years old during the calendar year of the draft. Zahui B. was born on September 8, 1993, so she'll be 22 this year, and that's why she can declare early for the 2015 WNBA Draft.
International Player rules do NOT apply to Zahui B.
Article XIII, Section I, Part (d) in the CBA allow for international players to enter the WNBA Draft if they are 20 years old during the calendar year of the draft. Article XIII, Section I, Part (e) defines an international player as:
any person born and residing outside the United States who participates in the game of basketball as an amateur or a professional.
This section explains why international players like Australian center Liz Cambage and Belgian forward Emma Meesseman were able to enter the WNBA in 2011 and 2013 respectively. However, both Cambage and Meesseman were playing in Australia and France respectively before they entered the WNBA.
Zahui B. on the other hand, is a Swedish citizen already playing American college basketball, so she forfeited her early eligibility that way. Here's the last part of Article XIII, Section I, Part (d) which takes care of a potential loophole that non-American college basketball players could use:
An international player who exercises intercollegiate basketball eligibility in the United States shall be subject to the eligibility rules set forth in Section 1(b)(iii) above.
Why Zahui B. should go pro now:
For the most part, Zahui B. should go pro for the same reasons that Loyd should, but let's see how they apply for her:
- She could be the number one pick in the 2015 Draft to the Seattle Storm - Assuming that Loyd does not declare for the Draft, Zahui B. could be the number one pick in this year's Draft to Seattle if she does. The Storm need a legitimate center that they sorely lacked last season. So that you know, Zahui B. is an AP First-Team All-American and a finalist for most of the National Player of the Year awards. She averaged 18.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, and four blocks per game in the 2014-15 season. She also made 78.3% of her free throws!
- She may not be as high of a draft pick in 2016 if she declares early next year - If Zahui B. completes her college playing eligibility, it will be in 2017. But if she doesn't go pro now, she may very well consider it again next year. In next year's draft, she probably won't be the number one pick.
- There may be easier opportunities to play overseas - Many, if not most European teams have quotas on the number of American players who can play for them. Some American players in the past like Becky Hammon and Kristi Toliver have adopted new passports in order to bypass that rule and even played for European national teams. Since she is Swedish, Zahui B. will probably not be subject to these quotas, and this could help her find a spot on higher quality teams in EuroLeague as opposed to EuroCup for example.
Why she shouldn't go pro in 2015:
There are two sides to each decision. So let's review why she shouldn't leave Minnesota in 2015:
- The Golden Gophers are in a good position to have a renaissance campaign this winter - Senior guard Rachel Banham received a medical redshirt to play in the 2015-16 season after tearing her right ACL on December 10, 2014 against North Dakota. If Zahui B. can pick up from where she left off from last season, AND if Banham can have a healthy end to her college career, we could be talking about this decade's Janel McCarville and Lindsay Whalen. If you didn't know, Minnesota went to the Final Four in 2004 with both players leading the way for Minnesota.
- Zahui B. wants to graduate from college - In a January 17, 2015 interview with St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Bob Sansevere, she acknowledged that she knew she could leave for the pros, but she still wanted to graduate. Since she has been in Minneapolis for three years AND she has one more year to play alongside Rachel Banham, she can graduate next year and lead the Gophers to a deep NCAA Tournament run!
- Even if she leaves early for the 2016 Draft, Zahui B. should still be a lottery pick anyway - 6'5 height, double-digit rebounding, and a nice shooting touch don't come easy in any WNBA Draft. Even if Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are the Top-2 picks of the 2016 Draft, Zahui B. has as good of a shot to be the #3 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft as anyone. On top of all that, she will still earn the same $50,617 annual salary that they do, assuming they are all Top-4 picks. So, it's not like money will be a pressing issue.
Final Verdict: I have no idea....
I'm not going to guess what Zahui B. may or may not do by Monday. But the 2015 WNBA Draft is looking quite interesting now. A poll's below. What should she do?