LAS VEGAS — Aliyah Boston flipped her cascading pink and white braids. She hit the stanky leg and flashed a smile.
Then, the WNBA rookie scored the first bucket of the All-Star Game. Boston finished with six points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes as her Team Wilson ultimately fell to Team Stewart, 143-127, on Saturday night.
Three months ago, Boston was in college. On Saturday, the Indiana Fever star looked at home as her name was announced among the All-Star starters to a cheering Las Vegas arena.
INTRODUCING...#WNBAAllStar starter, Aliyah Boston!!! 👏 pic.twitter.com/BdQ750qxRT— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) July 16, 2023
INTRODUCING...#WNBAAllStar starter, Aliyah Boston!!! 👏 pic.twitter.com/BdQ750qxRT
Boston was more than ready for this moment. Not just the All-Star Game, but the league in general.
She was ready when she was taken first overall in the 2023 draft. She was ready when opposing teams triple-teamed her throughout the 2022-23 college season just to attempt to slow her down. Boston was ready during her National Player of the Year campaign in 2021-22, and maybe even before.
The term “pro-ready” has been suctioned to Boston’s name for a long time, and for good reason.
“She was ready in college. And not just during her senior year, before that,” Stanford senior Cameron Brink said. “It doesn’t matter what level she’s playing at. She’s going to be dominant.”
In her rookie season with the Fever, Boston is averaging 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and one steal while shooting 61% from the field. That shooting percentage is better than her career and season marks at South Carolina, an amazing feat when you consider the increase in talent from college to the WNBA.
Boston’s physical skills have lent themselves well to the WNBA, where she is able to use her strength to displace defenders and her touch to finish around the rim. It’s a skill set with which anyone who watched or played against Boston at South Carolina is familiar.
Boston has recognized the increased physicality in the WNBA, but it didn’t take the Fever forward long to adjust. Even in her first WNBA game, against the Sun on May 19, she had 15 points, nine rebounds and a block while shooting 60% from the field.
That stat line came against Brionna Jones, one of the league’s top post players, and Boston had no issues with the matchup.
“She is definitely the strongest player I’ve played against,” said Brink, who faced Boston in several high-profile NCAA games, including the 2021 Final Four. “She’s solid. She can will her way to the basket. She has great hands. She’s a great rebounder, and she has a midrange game as well. She’s the prototype low post, honestly.”
Aliyah Boston with the first bucket of the #WNBAAllStar game. 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/yhHlx4eX6u— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) July 16, 2023
Aliyah Boston with the first bucket of the #WNBAAllStar game. 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/yhHlx4eX6u
Then, there’s the defense. Boston was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in college, known specifically for her rim protection. She made opposing guards think twice about driving the lane, and posts had to utilize extra creativity to get the ball to the rim.
Her shot-blocking has also translated to the WNBA level, where she averages 1.3 per game, tied for eighth overall in the league.
North Carolina guard Deja Kelly can’t help but laugh when she thinks about playing Boston during her sophomore season.
“I felt bad for my posts,” she said. “They could not move her. She was literally bullying them all game. And they’d laugh if they heard me say that. We were making fun of them.”
Kelly admits that she didn’t fare too well driving against Boston, either.
“She probably got a block or two off on me,” Kelly said. “Her presence is definitely felt when she’s on the court. When we played [South Carolina], our goal was not to drive the paint. I was getting to my midrange, shooting outside shots because I knew better.”
Boston’s seamless transition into the WNBA doesn’t stop with her game skills. The 21-year-old has the mindset of a pro, something that started in college while playing for three-time National Coach of the Year Dawn Staley. She made a point to learn everyone’s assignments on defense and studied aspects of the scouting report that didn’t even apply to her.
That hasn’t changed.
“Aliyah is special, man,” Fever coach Christie Sides said in May. “She wants to learn. She’s asking questions, good questions. She’s watching a lot of video. She’s doing extra work with the coaches.”
Boston enjoyed her All-Star weekend, accompanied by her parents and older sister. She walked the Orange Carpet in an Adidas set and got her nails painted pink and white to match her hair. She even knocked down a halfcourt shot during practice on Friday.
But she also set out to learn. Surrounded by elite post players, including fellow South Carolina alum and All-Star teammate A’ja Wilson, Boston had role models aplenty.
“When you look at the level of intensity that all of these women play with, it is truly special,” she said. “I really look at all of them to see how I can improve my game, because they all have a lot of experience over me and it’s just nice to see where they’re at right now.”
While Boston looked up to an older generation of posts during All-Star weekend, current college players looked up to her. A few months ago, they were in the same league. Now, Boston is an All-Star starter.
Her success gives them something to aspire to.
“To already be an All-Star is insane,” Kelly said. “She’s out there getting 20 and 10 [in WNBA games], and it’s light work. I think it’s super dope.”
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.