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Aliyah Boston’s been ready for her first WNBA All-Star Game

Aliyah Boston is announced as a starter for Team Wilson in her first WNBA All-Star Game. (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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.

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.”

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.”

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Boston nearly recorded a double-double in her 2023 WNBA debut. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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