It’s difficult to ignore the obvious lineage of star players manning the post for South Carolina. From Alaina Coates to A’ja Wilson and beyond, the low block, for about five seasons, has been a place the Gamecocks have thrived.
Enter Aliyah Boston.
The 6-4 forward comes to South Carolina as the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2019 class and its top post player. From Worcester, Mass. via the U.S. Virgin Islands, Boston has three gold medals with USA Basketball and earned MVP honors at the FIBA U16 Americas Cup.
“Just to see where [A’ja] came from her freshman year to now, in the WNBA, all the accolades, it just made me realize that if I put in the work, I can be as good as A’ja Wilson or even better,” Boston said Tuesday when meeting with reporters.
“Aliyah is an elite talent with an extremely high ceiling and an understanding of what it takes to win,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said in a release.
But Boston knows with great ability comes great expectations.
“There will be comparisons, but I know I just have to keep up with what I’ve been doing and not slack off,” she said. “It just encourages me to keep working, because I see where they’re at and know where I want to be. You want to be like A’ja? You want to be as strong as Alaina Coates? Keep working and keep going.”
In a video posted in February to the YouTube channel Overtime — an outlet where current basketball stars watch highlights of up-and-comers — Wilson commented on Boston’s game.
Wilson called the youngster “one of my babies” and agreed with her co-host that Boston will make an impact for the Gamecocks.
When she saw it, Boston couldn’t help but smile.
“It means a lot, because of how important she is in the basketball world and for women,” Boston said. “When I watch WNBA games, I’ll see what she does and see how I can improve my game.”
Since then, the two have met several times — including at the Jordan Brand Classic — and have exchanged text messages.
But it’s about more than just a mentorship. Their games are similar too.
“I’m very dominant in the post,” Boston said. “That’s my strong suit and I know that. I like to get to the free-throw line. I also can hit the mid-range jump shot. I’ve developed my 3 game pretty well. And I’m working on my ball handling to beat people off the dribble here and there.”
“I like to be physical,” she added later. “I like to put a body on someone so I can feel them, where they are. I think that’s going to help me, because I’m not going to back away from contact. I 100 percent will [welcome it]. If there’s contact, I will try to make my way through it so I can get to the free-throw line.”
“Aliyah is the strongest person I’ve met so far,” said fellow Gamecock freshman Brea Beal, who has played with Boston in a couple of high school all-star games. “She’s so strong and she’s constant. She’s consistent with what she does. She makes those easy layups.”
Boston envisions herself playing alongside South Carolina sophomore forward Victaria Saxton, who shined in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
“In practice I can see that we work pretty well together, working high-low, or even just watching cuts,” Boston said. “Like if I’m just posting and she cuts down and I dish her the pass. I think we can really work well with each other.”
Boston said she needs to work the next couple of months on balancing her game. She also wants to get in better shape to be able to get down the court easier and play more minutes.
“Finishing and developing my outside game a little bit more,” she said. “Really it’s just been about growing, basketball-wise.”
Boston was born and raised in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (By happenstance, some of Boston’s family know Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s family who live in St. Kitts, 150 miles from St. Thomas.)
“I thought I was dominating, but my mom told me, ‘Until you’re shining in the states, then you’re not shining,’” Boston said. “I knew I was shining in St. Thomas, but it was just motivation for me to keep getting better.”
So when she was 12, Boston packed up — with her older sister of three years — and left her parents to move to Massachusetts to live with an aunt.
“The next thing you know I was going to school in Massachusetts,” she said. “I came up here and everything got kicked up a notch. But I was excited and I was eager to learn.”
Boston started working out more and focusing on her craft. In two years, she was back to dominating.
“Ouu, maybe I am OK,” she thought.
Boston said “everything” sold her on South Carolina.
“I took all my visits, I talked to all the coaches and, at the end of the day, I thought coach Staley could get me to where I need to be,” she said. “And I just really loved the vibe I got with the team.”
Originally Boston was going to wear number 00 with the Gamecocks, but a few days before coming to campus told her dad she was going to wear 4. It was a joke. But then the number, which her sister wore in AAU, became available, so she took it.
“It’s a lucky number, so that’s what we went with,” she said.
Boston, like Wilson, has a bubbly personality. She’s confident, too, as evidenced by the answer she gave to a question about where she sees herself in four years.
“Four years, WNBA, overseas, endorsements coming at me one after the other,” she said with an ear-to-ear smile. “And just getting better every day.”