NEW YORK (AP) — Aliyah Boston has been the consensus No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft all season.
The Indiana Fever, who own the top choice, just had to wait for the South Carolina star to make it official that she was going to enter this year’s draft. Boston had the chance to return to South Carolina for her COVID season but opted to enter Monday night’s draft instead.
“I think Aliyah Boston is a legitimate first-pick option,” Fever general manager Lin Dunn said on a conference call. “I’ve watched her play very closely this year. Her size, her basketball IQ, her character, and her leadership skills. She just brings an enormous amount to the table, and I really think she’s going to have — whether she’s picked first, second, or third, she’s going to have an immediate impact on this league.”
Boston was a three-time All-America selection and earned AP Player of the Year honors in 2022 as a junior. She, like many other players, has had to choose whether to come back to college for a fifth season or turn pro. It created a buzz over the last few weeks about whether a player would forgo their extra year or return to school.
Players had until March 26 to declare their intentions if their season was over. Those that were still playing in the NCAA Tournament had 48 hours after their final game to decide.
“It does make our world a little more complex,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a phone interview. “If I could have a fifth year, I would have definitely played. There wasn’t a WNBA back then. They have a loyalty to college, and loyalty to fans. I see why you might want to do it. I know narratives about pay. They are competitors, they have loyalty to their schools. It has complicated our life a little bit, not knowing who’s going to come in.”
Engelbert did say that she loves to call the players who are invited to the draft, welcoming them to the WNBA.
“I will tell you. I just got done with the favorite part of my job, calling those prospects,” she said. “Someone texted me back, I’m crying tears of joy.”
Engelbert called Boston and three of her South Carolina teammates this past week. All of whom are projected to be taken in the first two rounds. The Fever have a chance to draft a few of them as they also hold the No. 7 and 13 picks. Other Gamecocks that have been invited to New York for the draft include Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere.
Minnesota has the No. 2 pick and potentially could take Maryland wing, Diamond Miller.
“Diamond has the physical gifts that I think we all look at and go, wow, she’s legit 6-foot-3, has some length, athleticism, real abilities,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “But there’s a long road ahead for her, too, in terms of wherever she goes, however high she goes. There’s no guarantee of immediate success. There’s I think quite a bit for each of these prospects that they’re going to go through, as every year.”
Out of the first round, only Indiana, Minnesota and Seattle’s No. 9 pick belong to the original team that held those draft spots. Dallas has three picks — No. 3, No. 5 and No. 11. The Wings lost in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons.
Other players invited to the draft include Grace Berger (Indiana), Jordan Horston (Tennessee), Ashley Joens (Iowa State), Haley Jones (Stanford), Dorka Juhasz and Lou Lopez Senechal (Connecticut), Taylor Mikesell (Ohio State), Alexis Morris (LSU), Maddy Siegrist (Villanova) and Stephanie Soares (Iowa State). In all, 112 players have declared for the draft which is only three rounds and has 36 picks.