Boston goes No. 1 to Fever; Lynx take Miller 2nd

NEW YORK — The Indiana Fever selected former South Carolina star and 2022 Naismith Player of the Year Aliyah Boston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA draft on Monday night at New York City’s Spring Studios.

Boston — a 6-foot-5 forward who grew up in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving to Massachusetts as a teenager to pursue her basketball dream — became the second top overall pick out of South Carolina, joining two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson in 2018.

“It’s really special, I’m thankful to God for putting me in this position,” Boston said. “Everyone in Indiana, they saw something in me, I’m ready to get there and get to work.”

Maryland‘s Diamond Miller was selected second by the Minnesota Lynx, while Maddy Siegrist became Villanova‘s highest-ever WNBA draft pick at No. 3, going to the Dallas Wings. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, who was the WNBA’s first president, sat with Siegrist.

The Wings also drafted UConn guard Lou Lopez Senechal two picks later. She had transferred to UConn after a stellar career at Fairfield.

“It feels surreal, really didn’t think I’d be here,” Senechal said. “I’ve come a long way, gone through a lot of challenges.”

Stephanie Soares of Iowa State went fourth to Washington. The Mystics quickly traded her to Dallas soon after selecting the 6-foot-7 center. Washington got back a future first- and second-round pick, the fourth year the Mystics have traded one of their first-round picks.

“It was a very interesting feeling,” Soares said. “Pure excitement going to Washington, but now getting to go to Dallas. It’s going to be a great next step to the journey.”

Soares tore her ACL in January and will miss the upcoming WNBA season.

Stanford guard Haley Jones went sixth to the Atlanta Dream, who also drafted Boston’s South Carolina teammate, Laeticia Amihere, at No. 8 overall.

The Fever selected Boston with the franchise’s first-ever No. 1 overall pick, a moment of celebration for an organization that has languished since the retirement of legend Tamika Catchings in 2016.

Indiana has missed the postseason each year since — the longest active playoff drought in the league — and is coming off a 5-31 campaign in 2022. The Fever hired Christie Sides as their new head coach this offseason and removed the interim tag for general manager Lin Dunn.

Considered a possible franchise player in the making, Boston was a four-year difference-maker in Columbia, where she propelled the Gamecocks to three consecutive Final Four appearances and the 2022 national title. She was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four during that tournament, while also earning three first-team All-American selections, two SEC Player of the Year honors, and four Lisa Leslie center of the year awards throughout her decorated career.

“She’s great. She’s ready,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said of Boston at the 2023 Final Four. “She has been the cornerstone of our program for the past four years. She elevated us. She raised the standard of how to approach basketball. She’s never had a bad day. She’s never come into practice sulking. She’s always just the person that you saw so very, very consistent.

“I slept very well knowing she was with our program, and I’ll sleep well knowing that she’s OK and she will definitely make her mark at the next level.”

“I think Aliyah Boston is a legitimate first pick option,” Dunn said in the week leading up to the draft. “I’ve watched her play very closely this year. Her size, her basketball IQ, her character, her leadership skills. She just brings an enormous amount to the table … she’s going to have an immediate impact on this league, and I’m just thankful — I think we all are — that she opted to come into the draft and didn’t use her fifth COVID year.”

Boston joins a young group in Indianapolis featuring 2022 No. 2 overall pick NaLyssa Smith out of Baylor, and Boston’s former teammate from South Carolina, Destanni Henderson.

The Fever also held the seventh pick which they used to draft Indiana‘s Grace Berger, who became the first player selected in the first round in Hoosiers program history.

The Seattle Storm, who recently lost Sue Bird to retirement and Breanna Stewart to free agency, selected Tennessee‘s Jordan Horston at No. 9.

Zia Cooke became the third South Carolina selected in the first round, going to the Los Angeles Sparks at No. 10. This marks just the 10th time that any school has had three or more players selected in the first round (last time: Oregon in 2020).

Dallas took Maryland’s Abby Meyers 11th, and Minnesota finished out the first round by selecting Maia Hirsch of France.

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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