NEW YORK -- What was long expected finally came to fruition Monday night, as 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 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 just really special," said Boston, who dazzled at the draft wearing a white jumpsuit and mostly purple hair. "I'm thankful, first, to God just for putting me in this position but also thankful to everybody in Indiana, just because they saw something in me and I'm just ready to get there and get to work."
The 2023 draft was a massive success for the entire Gamecocks program, who saw five players selected -- Boston, Laeticia Amihere (No. 8 overall by the Atlanta Dream), Zia Cooke (No. 10 by the Los Angeles Sparks), Brea Beal (No. 24 by the Minnesota Lynx) and Victaria Saxton (No. 25 by the Fever).
Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, one of the most decorated players and coaches in the sport's history, was in attendance to witness the feat and celebrate her players, four of whom went 129-9 during their tenure in Columbia and advanced to three consecutive Final Fours.
"Just the way that we compete and the way that we work," Boston said in describing what led to the Gamecocks' draft domination. "I think we have all just put in a lot of work. ... For us all to be at this draft is just something that's really special."
Maryland's Diamond Miller was selected, as projected, No. 2 overall by the Lynx, making her the second Maryland player to be drafted that high in program history (Marissa Coleman was the other in 2009).
"I just remember watching Maya Moore," Miller said of getting drafted by the Lynx. "That's some big shoes to fill, and I'm not filling her shoes by any means. I'm going to be Diamond Miller as soon as I step on the new city. [Lynx coach and president of basketball operations] Cheryl [Reeve], she seems tough already, so I'm really excited."
Villanova's Maddy Siegrist, whose 29.2 points per game as a senior was the fourth-best mark in a season since 2000, was taken at No. 3 by the Dallas Wings, making her the program's highest draft pick and third overall.
"It's a dream come true," Siegrist said. "I can't even put into words right now. You've got a million things going through your mind. But I've been surrounded by good people, good teammates, and I wouldn't be here without any of them."
Stephanie Soares, who was selected fourth overall by the Washington Mystics before being traded to the Wings, became the second Iowa State player, and first since 2010, to be drafted. Soares, a two-time NAIA Division I player of the year who played 13 games for the Cyclones last season before tearing her ACL in January, will miss the 2023 WNBA campaign.
"The rehab is going really well," Soares said. "[The] pure excitement of going to Washington but now getting to go to Dallas, I mean, it's going to be a great, great next step to the journey."
In return for Soares, the Mystics -- who have now traded one of their first-round picks for a fourth consecutive year -- received the Wings' 2024 second-round draft pick and a 2025 first-rounder via the Dream.
Indiana's selection of Boston with the franchise's first No. 1 overall pick symbolized 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.
"Just being able to learn from everyone that's there already ... but also to kind of be who I am and just continue to compete," Boston said about joining Indiana. "I think everybody on the Fever now, they're going to compete, and we're going to work hard. I'm just really excited to get that started with everyone."
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," 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."
"Aliyah Boston will have an immediate impact on our franchise on and off the court," Dunn said in a statement. "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 great day for our franchise!"
Boston joins a young group in Indianapolis featuring Smith, the 2022 No. 2 overall pick out of Baylor, and Boston's former teammate from South Carolina, Destanni Henderson. Also in the first round, the Fever at No. 7 drafted Indiana's Grace Berger, the first Hoosiers player selected in the first round in school history.
"I would say winning every single game, and I still think that can happen," Boston said of her goals for her rookie campaign. "I think we're going to have a great team that's going to compete. We're going to continue to play for each other. So just getting a lot of wins, I think that's the most important part, but also growing as players."
The Wings were also busy in the first round, drafting former Fairfield and UConn standout Lou Lopez Senechal at No. 5 -- UConn's record 13th top-five pick -- as well as Maryland's Abby Meyers at No. 11. Dallas' eight overall first-round picks selected in the past three seasons are the most in a three-year span in WNBA history.
South Carolina's Cooke went to the Sparks at No. 10, marking the 10th time overall, and first since Oregon in 2020, that a school had three or more players selected in the first round.
Minnesota closed out the first round taking French center Maïa Hirsch at No. 12; Reeve later said Hirsch will not play in the WNBA in 2023.
In the second round, Williams' LSU teammate and fellow 2023 national champion Alexis Morris was taken 22nd by the Connecticut Sun, and 2023 Big 12 player of the year Ashley Joens, from Iowa State, was selected 19th by the Wings.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.