COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After being SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year, it’s easy to think that Aliyah Boston has her sights set on a larger prize.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore for the Gamecocks brought home several accolades during her freshman campaign including the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award, which is given to the nation’s best center in women’s college basketball. For Boston, it’s an honor to be among some of the nation’s best players, but her focus is on helping Carolina achieve team goals.
“I’m just working to do what the team needs me to do,” Boston said. “There might be preseason awards and lists like that, but that’s not really my main focus. It’s just to continue to better myself and continue to help our team to be the best that we can be.”
Boston finished her freshman year averaging 12.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. It’s an impressive stat line without question, but head coach Dawn Staley said she’s seen improvement in her star player from last season up to this point.
“Aliyah is a highly driven and motivated young lady,” said Staley. “She definitely has gotten better. Her outside shot is much improved although her mid-range was pretty accurate, but she’s spreading the floor a little bit more with adding a three-point shot. She’s been pretty efficient. I know there will be some transition when it comes to doing it in a game and doing it as consistently as she’s been doing it in practice, but it’s good to know she doesn’t mind shooting it and she’s accurate doing it and she takes good shots.”
Boston said she’s seen improvement in her game as well.
“I’ve gotten better with my inside game,” Boston said. “I have gotten more aggressive and more physical. So, I’m really excited about that and I also have started to stretch out my game. I’m continuing to work every day on dribbling the ball more and getting my outside shots going.”
Staley has coached her fair share of talent including A’ja Wilson, who was the unanimous pick for Player of the Year in 2018. Although it’s early, Staley believes Boston has a chance to have the same impact and be the best player in the country this season.
“I don’t know [if] there’s another player in college women’s basketball that can do the things that Aliyah does at her size, her ability, her agility, her court awareness, her intellect. If she’s not in the conversation of being Player of the Year, you’re reading it wrong. You’ve got blinders on.”
With the expectation of being one of the best, if not the best player in the country comes the expectation to lead. This year, the Gamecocks will enter play without Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan to lead the way for the team. That void may not be Boston’s void to fill entirely, but she intends to step up and lead her team.
“I do think that I will try to take on more of a leadership role,” Boston said, “but throughout our entire team, we just have great communicators. So, together as one group, we have been doing a great of leading each other.”
With the season slated to officially start in a little more than a month, the Gamecocks held their first practice of the year on Wednesday. While the schedule hasn’t officially been released, Boston and her teammates are looking forward to getting back on the floor to play.
“We’re excited,” Boston said. “We’re not really sure what schedule we’re looking at or things like that, but we know that the start date is November 25. So, we just keep working no matter what because we know something is going to come.”