Women's National Basketball Association
Four of South Carolina's five 'Freshies' entering 2023 WNBA Draft
Women's National Basketball Association

Four of South Carolina's five 'Freshies' entering 2023 WNBA Draft

Updated Apr. 6, 2023 7:10 p.m. ET

Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere and Olivia Thompson began their journey in 2019 as part of South Carolina women's basketball's No. 1 recruiting class. Now, after four seasons alongside one another and an NCAA national championship under their belts, their minds have shifted to the 2023 WNBA Draft, which takes place Monday in New York.

"The Freshies" — the nickname for their five-woman group chat via text message created their first year in Columbia — remains intact to this day. Since its arrival in 2019, the powerhouse group has helped lift South Carolina to a dazzling 129-9 record, three Final Four appearances and national title in 2022, among many other prestigious accolades.

Coach Dawn Staley recently described her senior class as both a low-maintenance and high-performing group, saying that she believes it will be extremely hard to replicate such a cohesive and talented bunch in future seasons.

"I hope there is another class that comes a close second [or] third to this class." Staley said. "This class has been remarkable."


On April 1, Boston became the first of "The Freshies" to announce her decision enter the upcoming WNBA Draft. The 6-foot-5 star forward is widely projected to be this year's first overall pick, which is currently held by the Indiana Fever.

Boston averaged 13.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.0 blocks per game this past season. A three-time unanimous first-team All-American and back-to-back Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, Boston has broken over 20 individual program records and has earned several SEC and national accolades during her tenure with the Gamecocks.

She has earned name-image-likeness deals with several significant companies including OrangeTheory, Bojangles and Crocs among others, and her NIL value has been evaluated in the range of $105,000-$115,000 annually — roughly the same amount as an average WNBA salary and significantly more than the league's minimum salary of $74,000.

Cooke, Beal, and Amihere have also announced their intentions to test the waters in the upcoming draft. 

Gamecocks guard Cooke led the team with 15.4 points per game this season. She also posted a career-highs from the field (40.5%) and from the free-throw line (79.2%).

Beal, who served as a defensive specialist for South Carolina, averaged 6.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks this past season, while Amihere put up 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over that same span.

"I will forever call this place home." Amihere said in her announcement.

Thompson, who was a walk-on in 2018, is best known for the 3-pointer she made with 30 seconds left in South Carolina's win over South Florida in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Thompson is the last of "The Freshies" and the only one who has yet to formally file for the upcoming draft.

Boston, Cooke, Beal and Amihere are just four of over 90 candidates looking to secure one of the just 36 total picks in the 2023 WNBA Draft, which consists of three rounds. South Carolina's fifth-year seniors Victaria Saxton and Kierra Fletcher, a Georgia Tech transfer, are also in the mix. Check out the full list of opt-ins here.

If Boston is selected first overall, she will be just the second Gamecock to accomplish such a feat. The last — and only — time South Carolina accounted for the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft was in 2018 when the Las Vegas Aces selected future All-Star A'ja Wilson

If all four of "The Freshies" taking part in this year's draft are selected in the opening round, it will mark just the second time in WNBA history that a school has produced four first-round picks in a single draft, joining UConn in 2002. 

There have been seven schools that have had three players selected in the first round of a single WNBA Draft, including South Carolina in 2017: Alaina Coates (No. 2, Chicago Sky), Allisha Davis (No. 4, Dallas Wings) and Kaela Davis (No. 10, Dallas).

Only time will tell which Gamecocks make this year's and if we'll be etching new names into the WNBA history books.

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