With less than seven minutes left to play in Tuesday’s season opener for the South Carolina women’s basketball team, the crowd at Colonial Life Arena started to cheer as in-state sophomore Elysa Wesolek got up and headed to the scorer’s table to check in for the first time.
Coach Dawn Staley had seen enough — Aliyah Boston’s shot at history was going to be over. The highly-touted freshman forward was sitting at 12 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks against Alabama State, one shy of the program’s seventh triple-double. After three quarters, Boston had eight blocks, and Staley had decided to put her back in and let her chase two more swats.
“We put her back in because she was so close to it. And we were gonna give here two or three minutes to get it done, and if she couldn’t get it done in two or three minutes,” Staley said, then Boston would come out.
Boston had gotten her ninth block, but then missed a golden chance to stuff a guard’s layup, and Staley was ready to pull the plug. At the next stoppage in play, Wesolek would come in and Boston would come out with an extremely impressive college debut.
Then, with 6:25 to play, a Hornet player drove down the left side of the lane and tried to scoop in a basket. The rejection was right there for Boston, and she got all ball. Her teammates swarmed her, and she exited the game to a warm ovation.
“I honestly want to thank God because without God I wouldn’t have been able to even do that. And also just my teammates. They were able to get me the ball and I was able to produce for them and then everything else just fell into place,” Boston said.
Former Gamecock star Khadijah Sessions, who was providing color analysis of the game for the SEC Network Plus broadcast, has said she thinks Boston could be a No. 1 overall draft pick in the WNBA someday. After Carolina finished off the 103-43 victory, she leaned back in her seat and smiled.
“I told you,” she said.
Not only is this the first triple-double by a freshman in South Carolina history, it is the first time in NCAA Division I history a player has recorded a triple-double in her collegiate debut.
“The triple-double is a triple-double no matter when it occurs — high school, junior high, college,” Staley said. “I thought she was pretty active out there, blocking shots and getting rebounds. A lot of them were her own, but she’s got a promising future, and this is just the tip of the iceberg for her.”
Things will get much tougher very quickly for Boston — the Gamecocks return to the court Sunday on the road to play No. 4 Maryland, a team with significantly more size than Alabama State. But for Tuesday night at least, Staley wants to leave her in the zone and “let her enjoy the moment.”
And of course, like any player in the zone, it was an accomplishment Boston didn’t even know she was on track for most of the game.
“I had no idea, and then coach was like, ‘You’re two blocks away,’ and then that happened,” Boston said.