What was long expected finally came to fruition Monday night, as the Indiana Fever selected former South Carolina star and 2022 Naismith Player of the Year Aliyah Boston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA draft at New York City’s Spring Studios.
Boston a 6-foot-5 forward who grew up in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving to Massachusetts as a teenager to pursue her basketball dream — became the second top overall pick out of South Carolina, joining two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson in 2018.
“It’s just really special,” said Boston, who dazzled at the draft wearing a white jumpsuit and mostly purple hair. “I’m thankful, first, to God just for putting me in this position but also thankful to everybody in Indiana, just because they saw something in me and I’m just ready to get there and get to work.”
The 2023 draft was a massive success for the entire Gamecocks program, who saw five players selected Boston, Laeticia Amihere (No. 8 overall by the Atlanta Dream), Zia Cooke (No. 10 by the Los Angeles Sparks), Brea Beal (No. 24 by the Minnesota Lynx) and Victaria Saxton (No. 25 by the Fever).
Indiana Fever pick Aliyah Boston No. 1 in WNBA Draft
Not a lot of suspense in the pick, but she’s a player they hope to build a contender with. The versatile post player led South Carolina to the 2022 national championship while earning National Player of the Year honors. In four seasons, she averaged 14.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots, starting all of her 138 appearances.
On the fans cheering her at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during a watch party: “I can’t wait to see them at the start of the season.”
Cooke helped lead South Carolina to three consecutive Final Four appearances, including the 2022 NCAA championship. She ended her collegiate career on a spectacular performance in the Gamecocks’ Final Four loss to 2-seed Iowa, scoring a team-high 24 points shooting 11-of-21 from the field plus eight rebounds.
Atlanta Dream general manager Tanisha Wright said Thursday that Cooke elevated her draft stock significantly during the NCAA tournament. The senior guard was the only Gamecock named to the All-Final Four team and averaged 16 points and 4.6 rebounds over the five games.
The Sparks finished second-to-last in the WNBA last season with a 13-23 record. They made fewer 3-pointers than any team in the league, which makes Cooke’s ability as a shooter a strong fit for their needs.
The Sparks were also the worst rebounding team averaging 30.4 per game, and while Cooke is not a rebounding machine like teammate Aliyah Boston, she proved during the tournament that she is more than capable of getting to the boards, logging eight in both the Elite Eight and Final Four.
1. Indiana Fever: Aliyah Boston (C, South Carolina)
No surprise here. Boston has been the projected No. 1 pick for well over a year and the Fever made that official. Boston was a dominant interior presence in college at South Carolina, where she was a three-time unanimous First Team All-American, two-time Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and 2022 Naismith Player of the Year. She has all the physical tools and skills on both sides of the ball to be a franchise player and help turn around a Fever franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2016.
2. Minnesota Lynx: Diamond Miller (G, Maryland)
Miller surged up the draft boards thanks to a terrific senior season that saw her lead Maryland to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015. At 6-foot-3 she has guard skills in a forward’s body and boasts incredible potential on both sides of the ball. The Lynx will pair her with Napheesa Collier to form an exciting wing combo that gives them a good foundation for a new era of basketball in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Lynx picked at No. 2, and they did the sensible thing by selecting Maryland forward Diamond Miller. Miller combines guard skills on the perimeter with the size of a forward at 6’3, and she should be a great building block for an organization that lost long-time franchise icon Sylvia Fowles to retirement over the offseason.
Stephanie Soares, who was selected at No. 4 by the Mystics, has one of the most fascinating stories in this draft class after starting her career at the NAIA level coming out of Brazil. While Soares is recovering from a torn ACL suffered after transferring to Iowa State, her size at 6’6 and perimeter skill set feels like a perfect match for today’s game.
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