NEW YORK — The Indiana Fever made the most of the first No. 1 draft pick in franchise history, selecting Aliyah Boston.
The South Carolina star had a stellar college career, leading the Gamecocks to a national championship her junior year, losing only nine games total and helping her team to three Final Four appearances. The 6-foot-5 Boston was a three-time Associated Press All-American and also the Player of the Year as a junior.
“It’s really special, I’m thankful to God for putting me in this position,” said the 21-year-old Boston, from the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Everyone in Indiana, they saw something in me, I’m ready to get there and get to work.”
The Fever had the worst record in the league last season, going 5-31.
“Aliyah Boston will have an immediate impact on our franchise on and off the court,” Fever GM Lin Dunn said. ‘We are excited to pair her with Kelsey (Mitchell) and NaLyssa (Smith) as we reload the Indiana Fever. We are very impressed with Aliyah’s post skills as well as her natural leadership skills. This a a great day for our franchise!”
USF had two players taken in the second round, as Elena Tsineke and Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu became the seventh and eighth players in program history drafted.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” said Tsineke, who averaged an American Athletic Conference-best 17.9 points per game in her last season and was taken by the Washington Mystics with the 20th overall pick.
“(It’s) A dream come true. I am so proud and happy for my teammate, Dulcy. We have worked so hard for this. We both shared the same vision throughout the year. All Glory to God!”
Fankam Mendjiadeu went to the Seattle Storm with the next pick.
“I am feeling overwhelmed right now and it hasn’t dawned on me yet but I feel good,” said Fankam Mendjiadeu, who averaged 16.5 points and a conference-leading 12.3 rebounds this past season. “All the hard work starts now. I am really grateful for the opportunity but I know that everything starts now. I have to go and fight and battle and earn my place.”
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Boston, like many other players, had to choose whether to return to college for a fifth season because of the extra year granted for the COVID-19 virus or turn pro. She decided to enter the WNBA draft, joining 111 other players to declare.
“Everyone that has a COVID year has a tough choice,” Boston said. “You could be somewhere you know the system. ... It took a lot of thought.”
She was one of three South Carolina players taken in the first round. Laeticia Amihere went eighth to Atlanta and Zia Cooke 10th to Los Angeles. It’s the 10th time that three players from the same team were drafted in the opening round, and the first since Oregon had three in 2020.
The Gamecocks also had two other players drafted, with Brea Beal going 24th to Minnesota and Victaria Saxton picked next by Indiana.
“It’s amazing experience really, because this group of girls have been through life together,” Amihere said. “These four years haven’t been only about basketball. Being able to be with them on one of our biggest nights is an amazing experience.”
Minnesota took Diamond Miller of Maryland with the No. 2 pick, and Dallas drafted Maddy Siegrist of Villanova with the third pick.
USF’s WNBA draft history
2023: Elena Tsineke, Washington Mystics, second round (20th overall)
2023: Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, Seattle Storm, second round (21st)
2020: Kitija Laksa, Seattle Storm, first round (11th)
2016: Courtney Williams, Phoenix Mercury, first round (8th)
2014: Inga Orekhova, Atlanta Dream, second round (18th)
2013: Andrea Smith, Connecticut Sun, third round (35th)
2007:Jessica Dickson, Sacramento Monarchs, second round (21st)
1997: Wanda Guyton, Houston Comets, elite first round (5th)