USC Women's Basketball

What her mom said to push this new Gamecock thousands of miles from home

South Carolina women’s basketball forward Aliyah Boston explains why she chose her jersey number

South Carolina women's basketball freshman forward Aliyah Boston talks about how her dad influenced her to choose her jersey number.
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South Carolina women's basketball freshman forward Aliyah Boston talks about how her dad influenced her to choose her jersey number.

First she was the very best in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Then she moved to Massachusetts, and she became the best there too. Then, in a recruiting class considered one of the best in women’s basketball history, she was the highest ranked.

In Aliyah Boston’s journey to South Carolina, the stages have gotten bigger, but the results have stayed the same. Now, as she gets set to take the biggest one yet with the Gamecocks, she knows there is work to be done and, hopefully, even more high-profile opportunities ahead.

“Four years, WNBA, overseas, endorsements coming at me one after the other, and just getting better every day at my game,” Boston said of her plan for USC.

Those are suitably large goals for the 6-foot-4 post whose physical game could put her in the company of other Carolina frontcourt greats like A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates.

“I’m already in that line, and (others) will be making comparisons, but I just know that I have to keep up with what I’ve been doing and not slack off,” Boston said.

It all started on the island of Saint Thomas, where Boston grew up and got her start in basketball. By the age of 12, she was already a standout, but her mother kept her standards high.

“I thought I was dominating, but my mom, something she told me was that, until you’re shining in the States, then you’re not shining right now,” Boston said. “I knew that I was shining in Saint Thomas, but it was just motivation for me to keep getting better.”

She and her sister moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, where their aunt lived, and enrolled at Worcester Academy. The entire process was quick, and the transition on the court wasn’t easy.

“I came up here and everything got kicked up a notch. But I was excited and I was eager to learn. It took me a little bit, because that’s when I started working out more, because I had to stay in shape more because in AAU you play entire summer and then you’d even play in the fall,” Boston said of the challenges. “So it was just the level of play and how it just changed quickly.”

Within a few years, however, Boston was attracting the attention of high-level college coaches and climbing the recruiting rankings. Her punishing style down low made her nearly unstoppable near the rim, and her ability to distribute the ball boosted her entire high school team, which posted a 47-2 record over her final two seasons.

Now in the SEC, Boston will likely face more physical play than ever as older players challenge her in the paint. But she doesn’t seem too worried about getting pushed around.

“I’m very dominant in the post. That’s my strong suit and I know that and I like to get to the free throw line,” Boston said. “I also can hit the mid-range jumpshots, I’ve developed my (3-point) game pretty well, so I’m just excited. I’m working on my ball handling to kinda beat people off the dribble here and there.”

In the frontcourt, she already has developed some quick chemistry with sophomore Victaria Saxton, who played her way into the rotation last year, and senior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who also has relatives in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“I’ve talked to Kiki about it a little bit because my family knows her family, so that’s really just how it’s been. I think it’s my mom’s side knows her mom’s side,” Boston said.

The pair will get a homecoming of sorts this season when the Gamecocks play this Thanksgiving in the Paradise Jam tournament on St. Thomas against Indiana, Washington State and Baylor.

“That’s so exciting. I’m so happy. When I saw it, I just called my mom, I was like, ‘Mom, did you know?’ She was like, ‘Oh, I might have known,’” Boston said.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.