South Carolina Basketball: Aliyah Boston’s road to college basketball immortality

South Carolina basketball alum Aliyah Boston is already making history in the WNBA. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina basketball alum Aliyah Boston is already making history in the WNBA. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Aliyah Boston moved from Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands to the mainland United States when she was just twelve years old. When she fell in love with basketball and showed a knack for the game, she and her family had to make the difficult decision to invest in her future by sending her to live with her aunt over 1000 miles away.

When she was in high school at Worcester Academy, she stated that her goal was to get a scholarship to play in college so that she could get an education and continue playing the game she loved. Boston certainly accomplished that goal and more.

Coming out of the 2019 recruiting class, she was a McDonald’s All-American and was ranked the third-best senior in the nation behind only Haley Jones (now of Stanford) and Jordan Horston (now at Tennessee). Those two have become great and accomplished players in their own right, but the recruiting industry got the rankings wrong. Jones and Horston are great, but they aren’t Aliyah Boston. As she got to the University of South Carolina, she would prove it.

Boston was joined in the 2019 Gamecock class by Brea Beal and Zia Cooke (fellow All-Americans), Laeticia Amihere (who was All-American caliber but lived in Canada), and Olivia Thompson (a talented local kid who played at Lexington High School). Everyone who follows the sport knew that the 2019 class was going to be special, but no one could have imagined just how special.

“The Freshies” as the top-ranked 2019 recruiting class called themselves, would fill three starting roles on the Gamecocks’ roster as Boston, Beal, and Cooke played alongside Ty Harris and Kiki Herbert-Herrigan. Amihere was a versatile bench piece, so four of the roster’s top-eight players were freshmen. In a star-studded group, the 6’5″ Boston stood out.

Boston immediately became one of the country’s best players. She had a triple-double in her first-ever collegiate game and was honored as a first-team All-SEC player, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, and an All-American on the season. The Gamecocks were the most dominant team in the land and were playing very well when the Covid-19 pandemic ended the 2020 season.

Many thought the Gamecocks would take a step back without their senior leaders, but the Freshies grew up during the 2020-2021 season and became the Gamecocks’ leaders and best players. They seemed to be on their way to a national title that season when they lost to eventual champs Stanford despite two opportunities at the rim in the final seconds. A devastated squad vowed never to feel that way again.

In the 2021-2022 season, the Gamecocks made good on their vow. The nation’s number-one team from start to finish, South Carolina had two losses to Missouri and Kentucky (in the SEC Tournament Championship Game) but was dominant when it mattered. They swept through the NCAA Tournament with a winning margin of almost 22 points per game, including a not-that-close 64-49 thrashing of UConn in the title game. Beating the Huskies seemed almost poetic as the baton was passed from the former dynasty of women’s hoops to a new one.

South Carolina’s 2022-2023 season has been superior to any year in its history. The excellence reached new heights as Boston and her team dominated the regular season and SEC Tournament with a 30 points per game margin of victory en route to a 32-0 record heading into this year’s tournament. Combined with the previous year’s NCAA Tournament run, the Gamecocks have rolled through 38 straight victories.

The Gamecocks dominated the season awards, as well. Boston and Zia Cooke received first-team All-SEC honors, Boston and Brea Beal were selected for  the conference’s All-Defense team, Kamilla Cardoso was voted as the Sixth Woman of the Year and was picked as a second-team All-SEC player, Raven Johnson made the All-Freshman All-SEC team, and their coach took home the SEC Coach of the Year award. Boston also brought home her fourth SEC Defensive Player of the Year trophy. National awards have not yet been announced, but the Gamecocks will be featured heavily on those lists, as well.

With just six victories standing between the Gamecocks and back-to-back titles and an undefeated season, the Gamecocks and their best player are on the precipice of college basketball immortality. Only four programs have ever gone undefeated, and only three have ever won back-to-back titles. With another championship, what would be 44 straight wins would be the third-best non-UConn streak in women’s hoops history.

The Freshies currently sit at 125-8 since coming on campus in 2019. They have only lost one home game in their careers. They have the chance to win a second national title and are a tough bounce against Stanford and a Covid-cancellation in 2020 away from going for four straight this March.

Boston and her teammates are feeling confident heading into the most pressure they’ve ever faced. Being interviewed by ESPN’s Holly Rowe after beating Tennessee in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, Boston even went as far as to guarantee the Gamecocks would bring home the hardware.

As far as individual accolades go, with another trophy, Aliyah Boston would cement herself as one of the greatest women’s collegiate athletes ever. A very good and extremely efficient offensive player, Boston might go down as the best defensive player to ever play women’s college basketball. Frankly, she should already be in the conversation with the greatest players ever as her resume speaks for itself.

Boston made the All-SEC first-team every year as a Gamecock and was also the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year each of her four seasons. She was named a unanimous All-American after her sophomore and junior years and is sure to be selected as one again this season. Last year, she was the National Player of the Year and National Defensive Player of the Year, and she is in the running to repeat.

She almost assuredly will finish her career first all-time in Gamecock history in rebounds (both offensive and defensive), second in points, and fourth in field goal percentage. She has a chance this tournament to pass Wilson’s blocked shots record and Tiffany Mitchell’s free throw percentage record. Amazingly, she will not finish her career in the top-10 in career games played or minutes on the court. She also will not be in the top-10 in career turnovers despite her high usage. She will also have four of the top-10 rebounding seasons in school history.

Adding an undefeated season and consecutive titles to all of that? Aliyah Boston’s name would be mentioned alongside names such as Candace Parker, Maya Moore, and Cheryl Miller. She would be considered in the top-2 ever to wear garnet and black along with A’ja Wilson. She would join Wilson and Parker in the pantheon of all-time SEC players with greats like Chamique Holdsclaw, Sylvia Fowles, Tamika Catchings, and Nikki McCray.

And as Gamecock fans already know, Aliyah Boston would deserve every last bit of it.

South Carolina Basketball
Aliyah Boston is not just one of South Carolina basketball’s greatest players ever. She is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /