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Aliyah Boston shrugs off question about leaving South Carolina

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(Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

As players declare for the WNBA draft, questions about the status of star player and projected No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston remain.

And the South Carolina senior is not helping to quell them.

When asked if Monday’s Elite Eight win in Greenville would be her last in the state of South Carolina, Boston just smiled at the camera and then walked away.

If Boston chooses to postpone her WNBA career, she could become the face of a trend in women’s basketball as players opt to use the extra year of eligibility granted to them by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of this season’s juniors and seniors would have the option to use that extra year.

Tennessee senior Tamari Key laid out why players might want to stay for another year, as she and her teammate Rickea Jackson both opted to return for another season with the Lady Vols.

The NCAA’s new name, image and likeness policy is one of those reasons. NIL deals have changed the game for a lot of players, as they can make money while still in school.

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

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley thinks Boston should go to the league, she told the Greenville (S.C.) News in January.

“I do think Aliyah Boston should go. I do,” she said. “I think she’s ready to take on more of one-on-one play rather than the junk defenses.”

On Tuesday, Staley said that she has met with all of South Carolina’s seniors and that she’s “planning on not having them” next season.

“Regardless if we have some come back, or all of them leave, or all of them stay, we’re still in a position where we must continue to recruit, just in case,” she said. “But I think all of our seniors have put themselves in a position to be drafted.”

There is, of course, the WNBA’s perpetual problem of limited roster spots. Currently, there are 144 available spots across 12 teams, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for rookies. 

“I know there aren’t a lot of roster spots this particular year in the WNBA,” Staley said. “We are constantly feeding them with information that will help them make that decision to go or to stay… And I’m not going to sway them. I’m not going to try to convince them to come back.”

Even current WNBA players have spoken up in favor of players staying with their schools for another year.

“If I was in college I would stay,” wrote Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, who cited NIL and the limited roster spots as why college players should stay in school.

Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields echoed the sentiment, and even inquired if she still could use her extra year of eligibility.

“I would’ve stayed and used my 5th year under the current climate of college basketball,” she wrote.

Ultimately, whether or not Boston remains in South Carolina is up to her. But regardless of her decision, she’ll always consider the state home. 

South Carolina has been a home for four years, somewhere where I really grew up so it’s always going to be that second home to me,” she said Monday. “And it’s going to feel so good when I come back whenever it is, visit, see everybody, see the coaches. It’s going to be really nice.”