Arya Boston says she always keeps her cool when facing the star basketball players she grew up watching on TV. But last month, her poker face fell through.
Boston, Indiana Fever’s rookie power forward and center, went head-to-head with the Las Vegas Aces and leveled shoulders with childhood idol Candace Parker.
“It was surreal,” Mr. Boston said. “We’re standing at the free-throw line and joking around. And I said, ‘Aliya, don’t laugh.’ This is serious business.” ”
Fifteen years ago, when Boston was just six years old, Parker won the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year award. Boston is now working on a similar initiative.
She was the first rookie to be named a WNBA All-Star Game starter in nine years, and the eighth rookie in history. The result made it an impressive season for Boston. Drawing comparison Even greats like Britney Griner, Aja Wilson and Elena Dele Dunn are just weeks away from starting their professional career.
“She’s going to be a great player,” said ace coach Becky Hammon, who also coached Boston at Saturday’s All-Star Game in Las Vegas. “Indiana has a core, a core that literally builds around it.”
Boston averages 15.4 points per game, the highest score of any freshman, and has a league-leading field goal percentage of 61 percent. Boston, this year’s No. 1 pick in the draft, has swept Rookie of the Month honors so far this season.
“I never thought I’d be an All-Star in my rookie season,” Boston said Saturday. “I’m really lucky to be in this position right now.”
Boston exudes confidence. When the All-Star line-up was announced, she danced onto the stage to the delight of her veteran teammates. And she’s poised on the court. After losing a three-point lead to Liberty at Indiana Fever last week, Boston made a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. In the end, Fever won 95-87.
“She’s going into a little bit of uncharted territory,” said Liberty forward Brianna Stewart. “But she’s still making an impact on the court and seeing if she can make her play.”
Boston is known for being influential. Playing under coach Dawn Staley at the University of South Carolina, Boston was named to the National Team four times and set several team records, including rebounds, double-doubles and triple-doubles. In 2021, she led the Gamecocks to her second NCAA Division I title in program history. Now she’s trying to make a name for herself on the Fever Team, which has struggled for years. Winning is still hard to come by, but Boston has already proven its worth.
“It’s been a smooth transition for her,” Staley said. “She makes it look easy. And she knows it’s not.”
Transitioning from college to the WNBA involves a myriad of challenges, from pace of play to frequent travel to physical improvement, Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, said.
“It’s a big deal. Hats off to her and all the organizations in Indiana that have supported her work,” Ionescu said. “That’s why they drafted her at 1 year old, because they know what she’s capable of.”
Boston said her basketball IQ was the main skill that led her from college to the pros. She agreed with Mr. Staley.
“She makes the right decisions when it comes to basketball,” Staley said. “And if she’s played like that all her life, nothing will change. Only people change.”
One rookie Boston has faced is 2013 Rookie of the Year Del Dunn. Del Dunn said one of the difficult aspects of joining the league is how quickly the players have to get used to the new program. He has a coach and new teammates, but none of them seem to slow Boston down, he said. Last month, Boston had 23 points and 14 rebounds in an 87-66 victory over Dele Dunn’s Washington Mystics.
“She’s very controlling,” Dele Dunn said. “I mean, she crushed us in other games. She’s a rookie who needs a veteran defensive scheme.”
Dele Dunn added that the pressure of being the No. 1 pick could be difficult to handle. Last season, Fever finished last in the 12-team league with a 5-31 record.
“It’s hard to know the expectation that I will come and completely change the team, but I can do it,” said Dele Dunn. “When we enter the league, we’re always excited to have new players who take our game to the next level and make it even better. So every night people are watching what you’re doing.”
For now, Boston seems unfazed by the attention.
“One thing I always try to do is not go too high on the highs and not too low on the lows,” Boston said. “Keep calm.”