COLUMBIA, S.C. – Five South Carolina Gamecocks were selected in the 2023 WNBA Draft Monday night. With three first-round picks – No. 1 Aliyah Boston (Indiana Fever), No. 8 Laeticia Amihere (Atlanta Dream) and No. 10 Zia Cooke (Los Angeles Sparks), this draft matches the 2017 edition for the most Gamecocks taken in the first round. Just seven college programs have had at least three first-round picks in the same draft. Brea Beal was selected 24th overall by the Minnesota Lynx, and Victaria Saxton was the 25th overall pick by the Indiana Fever. The five overall picks are the most in Gamecock history.
The Gamecocks’ second No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Boston is a four-time All-American – just the fifth in the history of the AP awards. The most decorated player in program history, she is the program’s first National Freshman of the Year (2020) National Defensive Player of the Year (2022, 2023), Honda Cup winner (2022), Academic All-America Team Member of the Year (2022) and Women’s Basketball Academic All-American of the Year (2021, 2022) and its second to sweep the National Player of the Year awards (2022). She is the first player – male or female – to win a Naismith Starting Five positional award four times, collecting the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year trophy every year of her career. The two-time SEC Player of the Year was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year every year as well. Boston’s name litters the Gamecock record book with 14 career records, 14 season records and five single-game records. Two of her primary career Gamecock records also rank among the best in SEC and NCAA history – 82 double-doubles second in the SEC and eight in the NCAA and 1,493 rebounds rank fourth in the SEC and 15th in the NCAA.
The 6-foot-4 Amihere was called the most versatile player she ever coached by South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. A shot of energy off the bench throughout her career, Amihere gave the Gamecocks whatever they needed to success with her ability play any position on the court. As a senior, she averaged a career-best 7.1 points on 48.7 percent shooting and ranked among the SEC’s top 15 in blocks per game. Amihere’s effort at the 2023 SEC Tournament – 12.3 points per game on 60.0 percent shooting and 3.0 assists per game – helped deliver the Gamecocks’ third title in the last four seasons.
Cooke is a dynamic scorer and tenacious defender over the course of her Gamecock career. The 5-foot-9 guard led the Gamecocks in scoring as a sophomore and a senior, when she had her most efficient offensive season of her career. In 2022-23, Cooke shot 40.5 percent from the field, including 34.6 percent from 3-point range to pace the team with 15.4 points per game and a career-best 23.1 points per 40 minutes. Her competitive fire led her to rise to every occasion, earning NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team honors each of the last three seasons behind 17.5 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting over her four career Final Four per game on 46.2 percent shooting over her four career Final Four games
Beal’s Gamecock career reached its crescendo in 2022-23 when she was one for four finalists for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and picked up Honorable Mention All-America honors from the AP. The 6-foot-1 guard’s relentless defense was paired with her most efficient offensive season and a well-round effort that helped deliver record success for South Carolina. Her career-best 38.0 percent 3-point shooting led the Gamecocks; her 6.4 points per game ranked fourth; she was second on the team in assists (2.7), third in rebounding (4.3) and fourth in blocks (1.1).
Saxton’s steady leadership showed up in team success while she did whatever the team needed on the court and off. A four-year team captain, the 6-foot-2 forward was a fixture in the starting lineup each of the last three seasons and holds the program record for games played (166). Saxton ranked among the SEC top 15 in blocks per game over her first four seasons in the Garnet and Black, peaking at sixth in 2020-21 with a 1.5 average. That season, her first in the starting lineup, was her best offensively as well, adding 8.9 points per game on 57.3 percent shooting. Saxton is fifth in program history with 192 career blocks and sixth in career offensive rebounds (365).
In program history, 18 Gamecocks have now been selected in the WNBA Draft, including 14 in the Dawn Staley era. Twelve of the 18 picks have been first-round selections with 10 of those coming under Staley. At least one Gamecock has been selected in seven of the last nine WNBA Drafts. A’ja Wilson was the first Gamecock taken No. 1 overall when the Las Vegas Aces picked her at the top of the 2018 draft. The 2017 draft featured three Gamecocks taken in the first 10 picks, the most in program history.