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Will Aliyah Boston declare for WNBA draft? NIL makes decision more difficult

The South Carolina star already is worth more than $100,000 annually thanks to NIL. (Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

Will South Carolina star Aliyah Boston declare for the 2023 WNBA draft?

For South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, the decision is a no-brainer.

While Staley surely would love to have another year with Boston, the 21-year-old senior already has proved herself at the college level. She won multiple player of the year awards as she led her team to the 2022 national championship, and she’s looking to help the No. 1 Gamecocks (20-0) to another title this season.

“I do think Aliyah Boston should go. I do,” Staley told the Greenville (S.C.) News. “I think she’s ready to take on more of one-on-one play rather than the junk defenses.”

Yet for the presumptive No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, the decision is more difficult thanks to the name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities available to her.

Boston has an extra year of eligibility as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she has not ruled out a return in 2023-24, she told told the Greenville (S.C.) News.

“You don’t really have to do anything (in college) except hoop, go to school and make money,” she said. “In the real world, all of the sudden everything is coming at you, so I think it plays a major decision.”

Through NIL deals, Boston has partnered with companies ranging from OrangeTheory Fitness to Crocs footwear. Team sponsor Slate Milk is paying every player on the women’s basketball team $25,000 this season to promote the protein drink.

“NIL is an unreal blessing,” Boston said. “It’s a new opportunity for us to get a head start on life. Right now we don’t have to pay too many bills or anything, so it’s been a great chance to get a head start on what the future looks like.”

Boston’s NIL value is estimated at $104,000 annually by On3. That mark is more than she’d make as a WNBA rookie. And while the WNBA would provide its own marketing opportunities, big-name college programs such as South Carolina offer a powerful platform.

For Boston, that future certainly includes the WNBA. But when that future will come remains to be seen.