COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley and forward Aliyah Boston collected National Coach of the Year honors and the Tamika Catchings Freshman of the Year Award, respectively, from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the organization announced today. Staley becomes the first USBWA National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) to go on to become the group's Coach of the Year. Boston becomes the first Gamecock win National Freshman of the Year honors from an organization.
"Coach Staley has created so many great opportunities for us and showed us different ways to be great and successful in life," South Carolina senior captain Tyasha Harris said, speaking for the team. "She is deserving of this award because of how she pushes everyone to be their best while, at the same time, showing how much she loves us. She works just as hard as we do and never settles for less. She is without a doubt our choice for coach of the year."
Staley's team of six returning letterwinners and the nation's top recruiting class entered the season ranked in the top 10 of the AP and USA Today/WBCA Coaches' Polls and finished it at No. 1 in both. The Gamecocks' 10 weeks atop the AP Poll were the most of any team this season as the steady leadership of seniors Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan guided the otherwise youthful squad to a 32-1 record that included 26 consecutive wins to close the season, a perfect 16-0 record for the program's fifth SEC Regular-Season Championship and its fifth SEC Tournament title.
Also earning Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press, the WBCA and the SEC this season, Staley challenged her team with the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, and the Gamecocks answered with a 13-1 record against nationally ranked opponents, including wins over three teams that finished the season in the top five. South Carolina went 8-0 against RPI top-25 teams and 8-1 against the next 25 RPI teams (26-50).
Boston adds to her awards season with this recognition following Second-Team All-America honors from the Associated Press and the USBWA and finalist status for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and the Lisa Leslie Award. She was the SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year and grabbed a spot on the All-SEC First Team.
"I am so please to see Aliyah win the first Tamika Catchings Award," said the award's namesake, now the general manager of the WNBA's Indiana Fever. "It has been fun watching her growth and domination this year along with the accolades she has collected. She's proven herself to be a strong defensive presence along with developing an offensive arsenal that will only continue to grow under Coach Dawn Staley. This is an honor well deserved."
The 6-foot-5 forward powered her way onto the national stage in her college debut, becoming the first in NCAA Div. I women's basketball history to post a triple-double in her first career game. She did not let up after that, posting 13 double-doubles, including seven against ranked opponents. Averaging 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds on the season, she routinely lifted her game in the big moments to average a double-double against SEC teams (13.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and against ranked opponents (13.0 ppg, 10.9 rpg). Boston was a force on both sides of the ball, ranking sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (.608) and 21st in blocks per game (2.61).
"I am so blessed because none of this would have been possible without God," Boston said. "I am thankful that he blessed me with a great basketball environment of wonderful coaches and teammates who have pushed me to continue to get better every day. Their belief and commitment has made it possible for me to be so successful this season."