COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina women's basketball freshman Aliyah Boston earned a spot on the Naismith Starting Five as the winner of the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award, the Basketball Hall of Fame and Women's Basketball Association announced today on ESPN's SportsCenter. Boston becomes the second Gamecock to win the award in its three years in existence.
"Aliyah Boston is perhaps one of the most talented freshmen the women's game has ever seen," said Leslie, Hall of Fame, Class of 2015. "With her combination of intelligence, athleticism and coachability, there is no limit to what this young woman can achieve. It was a pleasure to watch Aliyah and her South Carolina teammates under the direction of Hall of Famer Dawn Staley this season."
The consensus National Freshman of the Year and a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, Boston was the SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year and grabbed a spot on the All-SEC First Team. She joined South Carolina's Alaina Coates as the only league Freshmen of the Year to also capture another of the league's top individual awards. The 6-foot-5 forward was also a Second-Team All-America choice of the AP and the USBWA.
"Aliyah Boston is the kind of player that makes the Lisa Leslie Award mean so much because she is the epitome of how Lisa personified the game," Staley said. "Aliyah is exciting, talented, driven, a devoted teammate and natural leader with a thirst for knowledge. Like Lisa, she never stops working and is the type of player young girls around the world can look up to."
Boston announced herself on 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 went on to break four South Carolina freshman season records and four program freshman single-game records. Her 10 blocks in that season opener tied the overall Gamecock record and her 86 on the season were the fourth most by any Gamecock in program history.
A force on both ends of the floor in her first college season, Boston finished sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (.608) and 21st in blocks per game (2.61). She was third in the SEC with 9.4 rebounds per game to go with her 12.5 points per game. She recorded 13 double-doubles, including seven in 14 games against ranked opponents. Boston's game got bigger as the spotlight brightened, averaging 13.0 points and 10.9 rebounds against ranked opponents and 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in SEC play. Her plus/minus rating of +13.21 against ranked teams led the Gamecocks, just ahead of senior point guard Tyasha Harris' +12.86.
"Wow, winning this award means to much to me, especially since it is named after one of the best to ever play the game - Lisa Leslie," Boston said. "I want to thank God because it would not have been possible without Him. And, I also want to thank my teammates and coaching staff for helping me to play in a way that is deserving of this award."
In its third season, the Lisa Leslie Award first went to Gamecock alumna A'ja Wilson in 2018. The other members of the 2020 Naismith Starting Five were Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon), Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year Aari McDonald (Arizona), Cheryl Miller Small Forward of the Year Satou Sabally (Oregon) and Katrina McClain Power Forward of the Year Ruthy Hebard (Oregon).
Boston's efforts helped the Gamecocks to 10 weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll and the top spot in the final week of both polls for the first time in program history. South Carolina finished the season on a 26-game win streak, including a perfect 16-0 mark in league play to claim the SEC Regular-Season championship for the fifth time in seven seasons and three wins en route to the Gamecocks fifth SEC Tournament title in the last six seasons.