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The post-Tamika Catchings years have been super ugly for the Indiana Fever. There's no other way to put it. Since 2017, they hold a 45-147 record with no playoff appearances and are on their third full-time head coach (plus one interim).
Losing was a new vibe for Indiana women's basketball. They'd reached the playoffs every year from 2005-2016 and made at least the conference finals in 11 consecutive seasons. Catchings, who led them to three Finals including one championship in 2012, was most of the reason.
Amazingly, despite all the losing, Indiana never received a No. 1 pick — ever, until Friday night. Now, Fever fans have a new hope in Aliyah Boston, the unquestioned most dominant player in college basketball.
Nothing is ever certain — especially with an Indiana team that has made some umm... surprising draft day decisions they quickly regretted — but Boston's been the presumed top choice for years now. It'd be shocking for her name not to be called first in April's draft.
Haley Jones from Stanford, who earned a Most Outstanding Player award as a sophomore, deserves thought, and should be an excellent WNBA player, but Boston is the real deal.
Put simply: an identity. At South Carolina, Boston's helped lift the Gamecocks to a phenomenal second act under Dawn Staley, transitioning from the A'ja Wilson championship to Boston's first of (maybe) two.
South Carolina is a physical, low-post bruiser of a team that will beat you in the paint and out-rebound the heck out of whoever you send at them. Boston's motor is unparalleled, and paired with her skill, technique and finesse, the 6'5 center is nearly unstoppable. In two appearances this year, she's averaging 13.5 points on 76.9% shooting and 12 rebounds in just 24.5 minutes.
The Fever are on a legitimate upswing now, with their first home run draft class in 2022 that includes NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engstler, Queen Egbo and Destanni Henderson. Kelsey Mitchell continues to impress as a lead scorer as well.
Indiana will have a lot of choices to make this offseason, but it's reasonable to think Boston could start from Day 1 and rank among the top-3 in scoring on her own team. She's a Rookie of the Year frontrunner for sure.
This is the big question that's no longer a stretch. New head coach Christie Sides has a lot of work cut out for her with a ton of youth set to play significant minutes, but the talent is there to make noise for one of the bottom seeds. There's finally a vision with Mitchell, Smith and Boston as a big 3.
Of course, making the playoffs will mean someone else has to drop out and it's so early that nothing can be said with confidence. But for now, we know the Mercury's Skylar Diggins-Smith is pregnant and could miss at least part of the season, Sue Bird has retired, and Breanna Stewart is a free agent.
The playoff Indiana Fever are loading.