May 29, 2024

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WNBA Draft: High Boston goes #1 to the Indiana Fever

WNBA Draft: High Boston goes #1 to the Indiana Fever

When Alia Boston was 12 years old, she took a 1,700-mile trip with her sister to her aunt’s house in Massachusetts from the US Virgin Islands, hoping to become a good enough basketball player to go to college for free and maybe someday. to the WNBA

Boston fulfilled that dream Monday night at Spring Studios in New York when the Indiana Fever selected them with the first pick in the WNBA Draft. Boston is the University of South Carolina second ever #1 pick in the draft; Aja Wilson was the first in 2018.

The Minnesota Lynx selected University of Maryland guard Diamond Miller second overall. In third place, the Dallas Wings selected Maddie Siegrist, a forward from Villanova University.

The Wings, who also got the fifth pick, rocked the night by trading future draft picks with the Washington Mystics for the fourth pick, Iowa center Stephanie Soares. They took Connecticut guard Lou Lopez Senchal with the next pick.

Boston’s selection wasn’t a surprise. She has been associated with the Fever since they received the first pick in the November Draft Lottery. Boston, the forward, will join his former South Carolina teammate, guard Destany Henderson, at Indiana.

Henderson was in the audience recording on the phone and before Boston headed to a press conference they hugged and celebrated loudly.

“She was like, ‘We’re reunited and we’re teammates again,’ and I said, ‘It feels so good,’ you know that song?” Boston said before singing her version of “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb.

With Henderson in 2021-22, Boston had the best statistical season of her college career, ending with a national championship victory over Connecticut. Boston and Henderson will be looking to recreate that winning chemistry for the Fever, who have been a punching bag for the rest of the league.

Indiana has not made the playoffs since 2016 and ended up with the league’s worst record in the past two seasons. Last season, The Fever finished with five wins; The second worst was the Los Angeles Sparks, with 13.

“It will have an immediate impact on this league,” Fever general manager Lynn Dunn said at a news conference Thursday. “And I’m just grateful — I think we are all — that she chose to participate in the draft.”

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The first round was packed with South Carolina as forward Leticia Amieher was picked eighth by the Atlanta Dream and Zia Cook was picked tenth by the Sparks. Bria Bell, who anchors South Carolina’s perimeter defense, was selected by the Minnesota Lynx at number 24. The Connecticut Sun selected Alexis Morris, a star Louisiana State point guard who helped the Tigers win their first championship in just over a week. Twenty-second choice.

Boston has been a standout in college basketball since arriving at South Carolina in 2019. She’s a scoring tackle, shot blocker, and anchor for the Gamecocks as they compiled a 129-9 record over her four seasons. Boston was the National Consensus Player of the Year in 2022 and won the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award in each of her last two seasons.

In her senior year, Boston led South Carolina to the first undefeated regular season in program history. Boston’s numbers were down, in part because South Carolina’s depth and the defensive strategy used by many opponents made it difficult for them to break away. Gamecocks averaged Most bench points per game in Division I in the 2022-23 season with a score of 36.1, nearly 5 points per game more than the next closest team.

With Henderson gone, South Carolina never found a reliable point guard next to Cook. So all season long, teams have fallen behind on other guards, dared shooters and helped paint Boston’s denial of the ball.

This is a strategy that teams cannot use in the WNBA, due to the scoring ability of professional guards and the league’s three-second defensive rule, which bars defenders from standing in the paint for longer than three seconds unless they are within arm’s length. An attacking player they guard. So Boston will likely see a lot more individual defense and room to run around than during her college career.

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“I’m really excited about this kind of spacing,” Boston said in a recent interview. “Because I think it shows everybody how they’re able to, you know, use their talents and go to work.”

For this reason, South Carolina coach Don Staley encouraged Boston to enter the draft this year, after the team lost to Iowa in the Final Four.

“There are defenses that are being played against her that won’t allow her to play her game. And then it’s hard to control that,” Staley said.

Added Staley, “She meant everything to our program. She’s been a cornerstone of our program for the last four years. She lifted us up. She raised the bar on how to approach basketball. Her day was never bad.”

Boston still has a year of eligibility remaining, the extra year granted to athletes by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic. She will probably be in the conversation for player of the year again, and South Carolina was the favorite to win the national title with her back.

But perhaps the most important incentive to stay was the earnings you could make in college, thanks to the rules allowing athletes to make money off of their name, image and look.

Many women basketball players, such as Boston, can make more money from collections and endorsements as collegiate athletes than they can from WNBA salaries alone; The base salary for rookies this season will range from $62,285 to $74,305depending on the draft round.

This gain likely played a role in the decisions of the Stars who weren’t in the draft this year. Several eligible players who may have been selected in the first round chose to return to college, such as UConn’s Paige Bueckers, Stanford’s Cameron Brink, Virginia Tech’s Virginia Kit, Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes, and UCLA’s Charisma Osborne. (The WNBA requires players from the United States to be 22 years old in the calendar year of the draft.)

That makes next year’s draft even more exciting. It could be full of talent: LSU’s Angel Reese and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, two stars who led the Women’s Division I tournament thanks to scoring and showpiece prowess, would be eligible. (For her part, Reese said in a podcast that she is “in no rush.” to go to the WNBA because they earn more than some of the best players in the professional league.)

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However, there are only 12 teams and 144 roster spots in the WNBA, only 36 players are selected in the draft, and only about half of those players make the roster on Opening Day. And without a developmental league like the G League in the NBA, some of the best basketball players end up going overseas to play professionally.

“Our best players are not going to make a pro team,” said Arizona coach Adia Barnes, adding, “You’re competing against, like, 30-year-old women. It’s hard. It’s competitive.”

It seemed like an expansion could be an easy fix to this problem, but WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert cited financial concerns why it couldn’t be done right now. Engelbert said in February that the league was in no rush to add new teams but would at least like to see it. Two new teams were added in the space of two to four years.

“I’m not going to give a timeline,” Engelbert said Monday night, adding, “The last thing we want to do is bring in new owners in that they’re going to fail.”

One of the league’s biggest problems has been how teams travel. WNBA players fly commercial flights, while most major college programs fly charter aircraft. Prior to the Monday Night Draft, the league announced that it would offer charter flights for all postseason games and select regular season games where teams play back-to-back games.

“We intend to do more,” Engelbert said, adding, “We need some patience and time to build it up so we can feel comfortable funding something more significant as we go into the following years.”