USC Women's Basketball

Could this top recruit be Dawn Staley and South Carolina’s next great post prospect?

Dawn Staley proud of spotlight from USA game in Columbia

A'ja Wilson, Ty Harris, Tiffany Mitchell and Allisha Gray participated in the USA team training camp in Columbia. The training camp culminated with a Red-White game at the Colonial Life Arena.
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A'ja Wilson, Ty Harris, Tiffany Mitchell and Allisha Gray participated in the USA team training camp in Columbia. The training camp culminated with a Red-White game at the Colonial Life Arena.

Over the past half-decade or so, South Carolina has developed something of a reputation as “Frontcourt U” with the presence of players like A’ja Wilson, Alaina Coates, Sarah Imovbioh and others.

It’s a reputation that a player like Aliyah Boston would certainly enhance.

Boston, a 6-foot-4 forward ranked No. 3 in the class of 2019 by ESPN, has Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks among her four finalists, with UConn, Notre Dame and Ohio State. And unlike other high school big prospects who increasingly play like oversized guards, Boston seems like the kind of player who thrives most under the basket, muscling away against other, powerful forwards and centers.

Boston’s coach at Worcester Academy, Sherry Levin, told The State that her star player has all the attributes a college coach would want from a post.

“There are many players that are 6-foot-4, but Aliyah’s ability ... she has great hands. She catches anything that’s thrown near her. She has great timing, so she’s a wonderful shot blocker,” Levin said. “She has a long body, so that she can get into more lanes than a lot of posts, and she’s quick-footed, so she’s able to run the floor ... Offensively, there’s not a game she doesn’t have people hanging all over her and beating her up and triple-teaming her.

“Defensively she’s just a really strong presence in the middle, she’s a deterrent, even if a guard beats someone off the dribble and they’re heading to the middle and they say, hey there’s a lane, there’s Aliyah and they immediately pass it out.”

Levin also praised Boston’s maturity and ability to contribute off the court, which she said will be key for her on the next level, no matter where she goes.

“She’s really an extraordinary person, which is part of what makes her so attractive to schools, because they know they’re getting a real quality individual first. I certainly know Dawn, that’s something that coaches really do look for. You want people to fit into the community, you want people to fit into the program, you want them to bring new energy and life and to be invested in the entire school community. Aliyah is someone who does that,” Levin said.

For Gamecock fans, the prospect of prying a player named Boston away from New England and UConn may seem like a lost cause. But Boston is actually from the U.S. Virgin Islands — she and her sister moved to Massachusetts with an aunt several years ago to develop their basketball careers, and she sees her parents just a few times during the school year.

According to ESPN, Boston’s plan is to announce her college choice in November, when she returns to her hometown of St. Thomas for a visit.

Boston’s background doesn’t include a childhood playing basketball from the moment she could walk — she started playing at 9 years old, competing in all-boys leagues in St. Thomas. And because she hasn’t been playing organized hoops for as long as other top prospects, there’s still lots of room for her to grow, Levin said.

“I’m confident Aliyah will have a wonderful career, and I think the thing with Aliyah is that there’s a tremendous ceiling,” Levin, who played college ball at Holy Cross, said. “She’s improving every day. So what I’ve seen in the past two years of being with her and working with her is she’s eager to learn, she’s eager to get better, and I think that’s something the coaches are also looking at because she’s not coming in by any stretch a finished product. She’s only going to get better and better, so it will be interesting to see her progression throughout her four years of college.”

Part of that improvement is her outside game, which is fast becoming something of a prerequisite for post players. Levin said Boston is capable of hitting shots from beyond the 3-point line and the midrange, but she acknowledged that even when she was playing for USA Basketball this summer at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, the post remained her “bread and butter” as she averaged 11.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

“Depending on how the next coach will fit her into her system, she has the ability to shoot outside. She has the ability to shoot midrange, and her bread and butter is down low, but she has expanded her game so that she’s really a threat from all over the court,” Levin said.

But even though Boston’s ceiling remains so high and she is not a finished product, Levin pushed back against the idea that she was still a “raw” prospect.

“I’d say her skills, we’ve played against a lot of very talented post players who are all going off to play on the next level, and Aliyah’s skillset is much more advanced,” Levin said.

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