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Aliyah Boston is making strong case for WNBA Rookie of the Year

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Aliyah Boston is separating herself from the pack in the WNBA Rookie of the Year race.

That’s not counting out the crop of rookie talent in the league this season, with Haley Jones, Jordan Horston and Zia Cooke making their marks. Rather, Boston’s front-runner status speaks to the dominance she has put on display in her first 14 games in the league.

Named a starter for the 2023 All-Star Game, she’s the first rookie to achieve that feat since 2014, when Shoni Schimmel started in the 2014 All-Star Game — and took home the MVP award. Boston has earned her place in the lineup, averaging 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game to lead all rookies.

The former South Carolina star also leads the entire WNBA in field goal percentage at .636.

She’s the first rookie All-Star for the Indiana Fever since Tamika Catchings in 2002. Other WNBA players to have been named starters in their respective rookie seasons include Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Chamique Holdsclaw, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner.

“It’s really special,” Boston said of joining that list of players. “Sometimes, there’s not enough words, or words you can even say because the feeling is just unmatched. I never thought in my rookie season that I would be an All-Star, let alone an All-Star starter, just because of the amount of talented women I’m surrounded by, but it’s a great feeling.”

Boston officially was named a starter Sunday, but she found out from WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert ahead of time, and she couldn’t keep the secret in.

“Miss Cathy said not to tell anyone, but I texted my whole family group chat — don’t tell her,” Boston said Monday night. “I told them they have to keep it a secret, it’s just my mom, my dad, and my aunt. I’m like, ‘Guys, shhh, but listen, come to Vegas.’”

She also was texting with Fever head coach Christie Sides on the team bus while traveling, who had to mask her excitement from the rest of the team.

“We were all separated, so Aliyah got the call, and then she told me,” Sides said. “We didn’t know if we could tell anybody, so we were all just sitting on the bus and she and I were texting. All she wants to talk about is her team, you know, and that’s the difference in her. That’s what makes her so special.”

A telling marker of Boston’s early success comes in the player votes for the All-Star Game. She came in sixth among frontcourt players in voting by her fellow WNBA stars, who recognized her talent and contributed to her starting spot.

And on Monday, she showcased why she could force herself into the conversation not just for rookie of the year but for MVP as well, putting up a 20-point, 14-rebound double-double against the Las Vegas Aces and fellow Gamecock A’ja Wilson.