December 30, 2021
‘I really wish I could sing’: Twenty questions with South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston
Boston dishes on her emotions after a good game, her toughest competition this season and the skill she would most like to have
My phone rang at about 11 a.m. a couple of days ago.
“This is Dorothy,” I said cheerfully.
“This is Aliyah,” the voice on the other end of the line said, just as cheerfully.
On the phone was Aliyah Boston, the star junior forward for the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team. At the time, the reigning SEC Player of the Week (for the second time this season). The dominant, two-way player and double-double machine, part of the best offensive rebounding team in the nation. The player who many people believe is already the National Player of the Year.
We exchanged pleasantries, and then, instead of the “usual” sports story—typical questions about an upcoming game or defensive scheme or exciting play from a previous game—I flipped the script. I wanted to make our encounter fun, interesting and personal for the fans and readers.
After all, it’s the holidays: time for all things new and bright, full of wonder and delight.
I ended up engaging Boston in a round of 20 questions. Much to my delight, she was all for it.
So, as you celebrate with family and enjoy this season, I hope you also enjoy: “Twenty Questions with Aliyah Boston.”
What is fueling you this season? What drives you?
Everything. Every single thing. Even coming down to last season and our run in the Final Four. Just wanting to get a national championship. That has been fueling me since I stepped on campus, and it has just continued to do so.
What talent would you most like to have?
Ooh, I really wish I could sing. Because I sing a lot of songs, but I don’t think they sound good at all. [laughs]
What are three reasons you like being part of a team sport like basketball?
Family, new relationships and the competitiveness of the sport.
When and where are you the happiest?
On the basketball court or with my family or this team. I know that’s not just one answer.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I don’t know. I feel like I would try to be mad more often. I need some more, “Oh, you can’t just do that to me” type of thing. I am easygoing.
Who do you pattern your game after? Or do you?
I don’t think there’s a specific person I pattern my game after. So I would just say a combination of everyone. I’ve always loved Candace Parker since I started playing. Just her ability to do everything. She can pull up, shoot the three, push the ball in transition, post up. She kind of just does everything … and she’s pretty tall. I’ve always looked up to her.
When it comes to NBA players, I look at all of those strong post players, like Giannis [Antetokounmpo].
Finish this sentence with one word: “Basketball makes me feel …”
What is the best part about competing?
It’s just an all-around thing. You just want to be better. You want to win. And being part of this team, everyone wants to win. It’s a great team to be a part of.
How do your teammates make practice fun?
By competing! When we make good plays, when we kick out [and make a] good pass, and we are always laughing. We are just a bunch of different personalities that all match up well together.
What is it like being coached by Dawn Staley:
She is the ultimate GREAT—absolutely. She pushes us every day. No matter what we are doing, no matter what the drill is, she pushes us every day to be the best players we each can be and every day she tells us: “Just do what you do great. Don’t try to do a bunch of things.” For example, I’m not going to try to be [point guard Destanni Henderson] because I’m not pushing the ball up like that. I’m just going to work in the post. She says just do what you do best and that will make you and everyone else look good.
Who’s been your toughest competition so far this season?
I would say Ayoka Lee from Kansas State. She was my toughest. She’s just a strong body post. Very hard to get around and so it was very hard. And she has great touch around the basket, so just trying to make sure she doesn’t even catch it—yeah, very hard.
What emotions do you feel when you play well?
I’m excited. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself, so when I feel like I played well, it’s like, “Okay, you deserve a good job.”
Is how you are playing this year stemming from how the season ended last year?
A little bit. But I think it’s also a new season and I need to be able to bring something else to the table and I just want to get better.
What is the one thing you always do after a good performance (after watching film)?
I go home, take a shower and go to sleep. [laughs]
What do you do to calm your butterflies while you compete?
I definitely have butterflies. I always say a prayer when I step on the court and right when the buzzer goes off, I say another prayer and then I get going.
If you could play another sport, what would it be?
I used to play tennis, so I would say I’d go back to tennis.
What one word describes you?
I would say kind-hearted. That’s one word. I know it’s a dash, but … [laughs]
What do you give up to play sports?
When I was younger, I gave up my immediate family, I would say, because I left my parents and grandparents in the [U.S. Virgin] Islands to live with my aunt. I’ve given up a lot of birthday parties, a lot of trips, but now it doesn’t really feel like I’m giving up anything because this is what I wanted for so long, so this is just doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
What mental tool do you use under pressure?
I take deep breaths and I pray when when I am on the court.
How has your faith helped you?
It’s the number one reason why I am at where I am today. God has blessed me with this ability and without it I wouldn’t even have it. But I also know He is there even through good times and bad and that we can’t forget about Him. So even on the court, let’s say it’s a tie game with a minute left and we’re on defense. I’m like, “God, you’ve already written this down. We’re already getting this dub,” and it just calms me. Then I just go play.
As we ended our call—and even though my 20 questions were up—I asked her one more: How will this season end?
She responded, “God has already written it down, so Dorothy, you and I will both see. In Jesus’ name, we will [win a championship].”