WNBA First-time All Star Aliyah Boston Front-runner for ROTY Honors
Aliyah Boston just wanted to fit in as a WNBA rookie.
She has, and more. The first-time All Star's historic season has made her the front-runner for rookie of the year honors and infused renewed hope for the Indiana Fever franchise.
The organization's league record-tying 20 game losing streak ended in May and Indiana already has matched last season's victory total (five). Two more wins would give the Fever their highest single-season total since 2019. And maybe some second-half magic will finally put Indiana in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
With Boston, anything seems possible.
“I knew she was special, but she's exceeded it,” first-year coach Christy Sides said. “You just don't know until you get into this league how you're going to respond. It's the different levels, size, speed, quickness, strength — she hadn't faced that night in and night out. She takes everything in, she talks to every coach, she watches video with every coach, she asks the best questions.”
Adapting quickly to her new environment is one of many reasons she's so far avoided the traditional learning curve and emerged as arguably the frontrunner in the rookie of the year chase.
At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Boston possesses the size, strength and skills to challenge most polished veterans. In her All-Star Game debut she had 11 rebounds, six points, two assists and a steal.
Sure, she's struggled at times with foul trouble against the likes of 6-9 Brittney Griner. Those battles have made Boston tougher as she settles into her new role just three months after finishing her college career at South Carolina.
“It's a learning experience, but I'm enjoying every step of the way,” the No. 1 overall draft pick said. "The hardest part was playing against people you've looked up to because you think ‘Wow this is like real. I swear I was like watching you and now we're on the same level."
Her resume doesn't resemble someone who appears star struck, though.
Boston was named the WNBA's rookie of the month in May and June and the Eastern Conference's top overall player for the week ending June 18. A few days later, Boston found out she would be the league's eighth rookie All-Star Game starter, the first since Shoni Schimmel in 2014.
Boston's college coach isn't surprised.
“You all are just getting a small taste of what we know of Aliyah Boston,” two-time national champ Dawn Staley said. “She is the most selfless, most loving, humble person, the greatest teammate. She makes all the right decisions out there on the floor and, like A'ja (Wilson), at a very young age.”
The numbers back up Staley.
Nobody else in this year's draft class comes close to matching Boston's stats — 15.0 points (21st), 8.4 rebounds (tied for seventh) and 1.4 blocks (tied for sixth).
But Boston's biggest contribution might be her locker room presence.
"Aliyah has already come in and instilled that culture that so many of the players needed and she did it so effortlessly,” said current teammate Kelsey Mitchell, who just made her first All-Star team. “To see AB kind of take off, take this team to another level without much experience, create the joy for our working, she's just an awesome person.”
Boston has been dominant during stretches, but there are other impressive first-year players.
— Minnesota guard Diamond Miller has played in just 11 games and 23.5 minutes because of injuries. Since returning June 27, the second overall draft pick has improved her averages to 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 26.9% shooting on 3-pointers.
— Dallas forward Maddy Siegrist, the former Villanova star who went No. 3 overall, has logged 7.6 minutes per game and has no starts while averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds.
— Seattle's rookie tandem of Ivana Dojkic, a 25-year-old from the EuroLeague, and Jordan Horston, the No. 9 overall pick in April's draft, are the closest statistical qualifiers to Boston. Dojkic's scoring average (8.2) ranks No. 50. Horston is tied for 19th in blocks (0.8) and is No. 20 in rebounds (5.6).
None, however, has made a bigger splash than Boston.
The three-time All-American and 2022 Associated Press national player of the year who has bigger goals than adding to her personal trophy case.
“I wanted to improve my game,” she said. “But I also wanted to help bring the program to new heights, make the playoffs and I feel like I've done a pretty good job so far so I'm pretty excited.”