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  1. #1

    Default Gopher Sports: Meet the Newcomers

    First up: Houlfat "Happy" Mahouchiza

    GS: When did you move from France to the United States?
    HM: "That was August of 2016."

    GS: Did you come here specifically to play basketball?

    HM: "Yes."

    GS: What was that adjustment like moving from France to America?
    HM: "I'm used to not being home with my family since I was 14, so I don't get homesick a lot. But to change to a whole new country, a whole new language and new lifestyle wasn't easy."

    GS: What were some of the hardest parts about moving?
    HM: "Probably the language. I knew some English before I moved, but it wasn't that good."

    GS: How would you describe yourself as a player?
    HM: "I'd say I'm a power forward, so a forward that can go on the wing, too. I'm versatile, so I can post up or take shots or dribble to the rim. I think those are some of my strengths."

    GS: So how did you end up at Minnesota? What was the recruiting process like for you?
    HM: "I was at a junior college in Georgia (South Georgia Technical College) and both years we went to the juco national tournament; I believe Minnesota saw me there. I was named to the Freshman All-Star team and started getting many contacts and offers after my freshman season. I wanted to commit early; I already had enough offers to make my choice in November. I tried to take visits to all the schools that mattered to me. I came to visit Minnesota in October, and I really liked the school, the facilities and the players."

  2. #2


    Mercedes Staples: Tell us a little bit about your recruiting process. You were originally committed to Clemson, but then opened your recruiting back up when the coach left and signed with Minnesota in May.
    Mercedes Staples: "Yeah, I knew Clemson for about a year before I committed there. I felt like it was the right decision at the right time. The coaches, I am still super close with, so there was family there and I felt like it was the right decision right then."

    GS: What was your initial introduction to Minnesota?
    MS: "They contacted me once or twice. I was planning on coming to visit then those coaches left, so then I figured Minnesota was out and went for my other options. Then I got a text from Coach Whalen saying that she wanted to recruit me and so that's kind of how that all started up."

    GS: What was that moment like, when you get a text from Lindsay Whalen saying that she wants to recruit you?
    MS: "So awesome. It was unbelievable."

    GS: How did you decide that Minnesota was the right school for you?
    MS: "For two and a half weeks I traveled to four different schools and then I came home on a Sunday and I decided three days later. It kind of came down to my religion, so I did a lot of fasting and I did a lot of praying. And then that Wednesday, I came up to my parents and I said, 'I know where I'm going.' I don't know how to describe how you know, it's just a feeling."

    GS: How do you see your role on the team this year?
    MS: "They've got some good guards right now. Kenisha (Bell) is amazing. I'm going to learn a lot from her with this one year with her, and I also have Jasmine (Brunson). I think being able to play with them my freshmen year is going to help me a lot to learn from them. I think just being able to play with these guys will help me know what my role is in this team this year and then being able to take what they had and apply it to next year so I think I'm just in the learning process right now."

  3. #3


    Delaynie Byrne: How did you choose Minnesota?
    Delaynie Byrne: "Minnesota was actually one of my last offers, which means it was in the last spring of my AAU career. They saw me here in Minnesota, and I received my unofficial sometime in June and then committed about a week later.

    I ended up choosing Minnesota for the overall fit. I love the team, I love the city and I love everyone here. You can walk around town and everyone you see will be so kind. The city also reminded me a little bit of home because Colorado has similar weather. In terms of the recruiting process, it was an extensive and stressful experience but in the end I am definitely happy with my choice."

    GS: You committed to Minnesota under the previous coaching staff, what made you stick to your commitment?
    DB: "The new coaches were still very committed to me. They reached out to me and they were so nice. They had a good idea of what they wanted the program to be like and I know Coach (Lindsay) Whalen has high expectations for this team. She is an incredible player so to be able to be coached by her is a great opportunity."

    GS: How has the adjustment to college and living on your own been like for you?
    DB: "I have never lived on my own and my entire family lives in Colorado so moving out here was difficult for the first couple of weeks. Now that I am living here and keeping busy the transition has become a little easier for me."

  4. #4


    Finally: Barbora Tomancova

    Gopher Sports: When did you start playing basketball?
    Barbora Tomancova: "I started playing when I was around eight years old. My mom and my dad both played basketball, my mom still does and she's a coach, too. That's why I started."

    GS: Did you play for your parents growing up?
    BT: "I started with prep basketball, which was mixed with girls and boys together. We didn't have many games. Then I transferred to one club where I played for three different coaches, one of them being my mom. When I was around 15, I transferred to another club and played for other coaches and then my mom transferred there, too, so I played for mom a little bit, but she never was the head coach."

    GS: Would you say you learned most of your game from your parents or from other coaches?
    BT: My mom definitely helped me get through mentally, but physically playing basketball, I got from other coaches

    GS: Did you know who Lindsay Whalen was when she contacted you? Did you know how good of a player she was and how famous she was?
    BT: "I knew who Lindsay was since she played in Prague, but I never really watched her play because I wasn't that big of a fan of basketball when she played in Prague. But then I saw her in the WNBA and the national team, too. I think she's a great player and she's super nice, too. I knew who she was, but I never really watched WNBA or NBA, mainly because of the time zones. I needed to get my sleep."

    GS: Were you taught English growing up, or is that something you have learned on your own?
    BT: "We have mandatory English when we are eight years old, but I never really cared about it until I was around 14 and then I got a great teacher who made it fun to learn so I did learn it. Then I started watching Czech movies with English subtitles and then English movies with Czech subtitles and then English movies where I didn't need to play the subtitles anymore. So music and movies have been the most helpful."

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Ignatius L Hoops View Post

    First up: Houlfat "Happy" Mahouchiza
    I hate to be naīve, but who is this player? Not listed on the roster and I couldn't find anything from the link you provided.

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by EaganGopher22 View Post
    I hate to be naīve, but who is this player? Not listed on the roster and I couldn't find anything from the link you provided.
    She left during the summer.

  7. #7


    Well, that explains it. So previous coach brought her here and she left after Whalen was named coach?

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by EaganGopher22 View Post
    Well, that explains it. So previous coach brought her here and she left after Whalen was named coach?
    No, she was here this summer working out under Whalen's assistant coaches while Lindsay played for the Lynx. She accompanied the team on the summer Italy tour and games. As just posted on parallel thread, she left in mid to late August.

    It seems to remain a mystery as to why she left, with all comments seemingly speculative. There were comments about obscure NCAA rules for Junior College transfer, but Irene accomplished that, so not sure what the issue might have been. It left us short a post player, which Lindsey filled with Tomancova.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Beaver Lodge in Lake Gopher


    Quote Originally Posted by EaganGopher22 View Post
    I hate to be naīve, but who is this player? Not listed on the roster and I couldn't find anything from the link you provided.
    When she changed her name to Un-Happy, there could be but one outcome.

  10. #10


    A minor note: Tomancova was recruited and signed before Mahouchiza left. From the 22 June StarTrib:

    Whalen announced on Twitter that the program signed Barbora Tomancova, a 6-2 center from Brno, Czech Republic.

    “Barbora is someone who, as a staff, we have been watching for some time now,” Whalen told the U’s website. “Her versatility, length and skill for a post player are qualities we know will help our program.”

    She is the fourth player to sign thus far with the Gophers. The others are 6-2 forward Delaynie Byrne (Arvada, Colo.), 6-1 forward Houlfat Mahouchiza (Marseille, France) — a junior college transfer from South Georgia Tech — and 5-10 guard Mercedes Staples (Centerville, Utah).

    Two other guards signed by the Gophers last November decided to go elsewhere. Jaidah Stewart (Kirkwood, Mo.) signed with Houston and Lesila Finau (Dublin, Calif.) with Colorado.

  11. #11


    Thanks for that correction, Iggy.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Blog Entries


    Yeah, I think I remember something about rules governing JC transfers and her status as an international player. Too bad.
    Welcome to Badger Road Kill Country!

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