March 10, 2023
Jordan Horston and Laeticia Amihere among standout draft prospects from SEC Tournament
Top WNBA draft prospects shine in Greenville, S.C.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — The 2023 SEC Tournament featured five of the Top 20 prospects in the 2023 WNBA Draft, according to our latest aggregated big board with a panel of 13 public draft analysts.
This weekend was an opportunity for me to do some in-person scouting and gain insight from coaches on some of the most diverting young players in the women’s basketball landscape. So let’s unload the scouting notebook, shall we?
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Aliyah Boston is a generational rim protector, seriously. On at least three occasions in the tournament, she was able to make a chase-down contest to disrupt an opponent’s early offense. Boston isn’t the most athletic defensive prospect in recent memory, but she has an innate understanding of her game, body, and the intellect to defend with verticality in the half-court that is simply unique.
Continuing to speak on the intellectual aspect of her game, no player receives as many double- and triple teams on post touches as Boston. Despite this level of defensive attention on a nightly basis, she has a superb 10.2 percent turnover rate, which ranks in the 97th percentile, according to HerHoopStats.
She is adept at quickly reading and reacting to find an open teammate when a help defender digs down into the post. Also, Boston can pinpoint passes from the elbow to any of South Carolina’s interior players on post steals or shooters on the perimeter.
The 6’5 center didn’t post gaudy raw statistical numbers, given the Gamecocks’ depth across the board, but Boston still averaged 13 points, 9.3 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in 27 minutes of action across three games; taking home SEC Tournament MVP honors.
Laeticia Amihere, South Carolina
Laeticia Amihere was nothing short of incredible off the bench in the SEC Tournament. She scored 16 points and snagged five rebounds against Arkansas in the Quarterfinals on 6-for-13 shooting. Amihere followed that up with a season-high 17 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks in 25 minutes against Mississippi in the Semifinals.
“She’s the most versatile player that I’ve ever coached,” head coach Dawn Staley told the media following its 80-51 win against Mississippi. “She can play one through five, she welcomes all the roles she’s given… She didn’t play much the first time we played them, it was just a coach’s decision, but her response was, ‘I’m going to make you play me, I’m going to make you play me for a long time because I’m going to be all over the place.’ LA’s played point guard for us, she was point forward for us today, I think we utilized all of her skill set.”
See the possession above, Amihere chases Mississippi’s Angel Baker, recognizes the screen, fluidly goes under the screen, speeds back up, and positions her body for the emphatic block.
For reference, Amihere is 6’4 with a 6’10 wingspan and a nimble frame that allows her to be positionally versatile. She has elite recovery skills, a high processing level, and the instinct to roam all over the court on defense.
Amihere’s offense is murky. She ranks in the 4th percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers and shoots just 10.5 percent from beyond the arc. Amihere profiles as an offensive negative in the half-court, albeit she is a force in transition, given her long stride lengths and motor.
“Depending on what position I play, I just have to make sure I get my outside shot going; a mid-range game as well,” Amihere told The Next. “I’m able to beat people to the basket, but that mid area is also going to help me a lot.”
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Since 2017, only eight of the 72 first-round picks averaged fewer than 10 points in their final college season, the list notably includes Emily Engstler, Queen Egbo, Ty Harris, and Jasmine Jones. If Amihere is selected in the first round of this year’s draft, she would be the ninth player to join that list.
Overall, Amihere is the biggest upside swing in the 2023 WNBA Draft. She is one of two high-major players in the country with a 14 percent assist rate, five percent block rate, and two percent steal rate (min. 15 minutes per game), joining Washington’s Dalayah Daniels.
Zia Cooke, South Carolina
Zia Cooke is the typical microwave-scoring combo guard that can go for 20 points in a game or shoot sub-30 percent from the field in another. Last Sunday, she scored a game-high 24 points on 8-for-18 shooting vs. Tennessee. But just two days prior, Cooke scored two points on 1-for-10 shooting from the field against Arkansas.
As a prospect, she is polarizing. It’s fair to believe in the shot-creation ability, improved passing, and defensive aptitude, but it’s also fair to be hesitant to draft a second-side-creating 5’9 guard with less-than-ideal rim finishing numbers.
Jordan Horston, Tennessee
This is likely a little bit spicy, but there’s a real case to be made for Jordan Horston as the No. 2 prospect in the 2023 draft, ahead of Maryland’s Diamond Miller.
Horston is the Lady Vols’ offense engine; she runs a heavy dose of pick-and-roll with the ability to be multidimensional as a creator. She is slippery enough to split defenders, she can find a teammate on the short roll, rise into a mid-range pull-up or floater with incredible elevation and leverage her physical acumen as a rim finisher.
“Obviously as coaches, we try to practice and prep our players for the actions they are going to see in the game,” head coach Kellie Harper told The Next. “She’s seen a lot of different defenses with ball screens, whether it’s a hedge, switch, ice, over, under. I think the reps have helped her, but she has such a natural ability to react in those moments. I mean, she mentioned it, she does like to play a little slower and be able to anticipate and read what the defense is doing. Obviously, she can pull up and shoot jumpers, she can get to the basket, and find the open teammate.”
Horston has clear offensive limitations, given her well-below-average 3-point jumper. That prompts valid concerns with her ability to function off the ball, so it will be vital for her to provide value as a cutter from the weak side or through the wing — a play type that isn’t as frequent in her offensive role for Tennessee, but Horston displays promise in limited spurts.
On defense, Horston brings a lot of utility at 6’2. She’s switchable, uses her length and instincts to jump passing lanes, close out onto shooters, and defend at the rim.
“I can guard anybody,” Horston said. “I want to do what’s best for the team, whatever spot they need me to play, I’m going to play it and give it my all. But like I said, that vertical allows me to hang down there with the posts, and also defend smaller guards.”
Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
If there’s one thing Rickea Jackson can do, it’s get buckets. The 6’2 forward averaged 25.6 points on 50 percent shooting from the field across three games in the tournament.
Jackson is a fluid play finisher that can operate from the elbow, punish mismatches in the mid-range and finish at the rim at a 78.7 percent clip, ranking in the 98th percentile, according to CBB Analytics.
“Rickea is smooth, she plays that mid-range game as well as anyone,” Harper said. “Boy that mid-range is her sweet spot, you know, she can work ‘inside out’ or ‘outside in’ and I’ll tell you it’s pretty.”
The biggest question for Jackson’s translatability to the next level is weighing the functionality of her post-scoring when scaling down to a smaller role. Currently, her handle is overwhelming and she’s too hesitant of a shooter to generate closeouts from deep, but her mix of athleticism, two-point efficiency, and defense is a worthwhile mid-first-round selection in this year’s draft.