#WNBA20: With draft on the horizon, Imani Boyette on the brink of adding to family’s pro legacy
When the NBA Board of Governors approved the formation of the WNBA on April 24, 1996, Imani Boyette was not yet 2 years old. Less than a year later, her mother Pamela McGee, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time national champion with Southern California along with twin sister Paula, was drafted as the second overall pick in the college portion of the inaugural draft.
Mother McGee, already in the women’s basketball record books for her feats, became the first former WNBA player to have a son play in the NBA when son JaVale was drafted in 2008.
Now Boyette will add to the family’s heritage by becoming the first player in the WNBA to have a mother that also played in the league when the organization’s draft takes place this week.
“I think my mother is always saying we don’t realize how amazing she actually was,” said Boyette when asked about her mom’s legacy during the WNBA’s pre-draft teleconference with media last week. “I think it’s just really cool, and my mom likes to say that basketball is the family business. So I just try to make her proud every time I step on the court, because she takes pride in her game, and I try to do the same.”
Last summer Boyette married Paul Boyette Jr. a defensive tackle for Texas football. This summer she will be a pro player as well and expected to be a high pick in the first round of the draft. If she goes to Dallas, she will just be a few hours’ drive from her husband in Austin and in the same metro area where her brother plays for the Dallas Mavericks.
If she goes to Los Angeles, her hometown, family members and friends will be able to see her play on a regular basis.
As an immensely talented 6-7 center, Boyette racked up many honors during her time in Austin. From earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year to becoming the first player at Texas to record 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks. She started all 36 games for the Longhorns in 2015-16 and helped the program advance to its first Elite Eight game since 2003.
The winner of the 2015 Honda Inspiration award garnered high praise from coaches and analysts in the days leading up the draft.
“She’s skilled. She can really move up and down the floor,” ESPN analyst and former WNBA player Rebecca Lobo said. “I think that’s some of the traits that are really appealing about her to GMs. I think the key for her is going to find a level of consistency on both ends of the floor, where every night she can come out and a coach knows exactly what she can give them in terms of her points and rebounds.”
Lobo indicated that Boyette could improve her offensive skills by playing overseas in the offseason. The soon-to-be pro responded to the assessment with a mature outlook.
“Yeah, I really want to go overseas,” Boyette said. “That’s definitely a goal of mine. And hopefully I can prove her wrong and do well offensively in the WNBA, but I’m aware that that’s like my biggest weakness and that’s something I need to work on, so I’ve been trying to dedicate time to working on that.”
Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek expressed the need for talented post players in the WNBA in her comments regarding Boyette.
“Yeah, Imani, you can’t teach that size,” Boucek said. “There’s a lot of need for size around our league. Several teams have a need for that. If you want to compete for championships in our league, you’ve got to be able to deal with [Brittney] Griner and Tina Charles and some of these great post players, preferably without a double-team. So I think she brings value.”
Some of Boyette’s earliest memories of the WNBA are actual interactions on the court with legends like her mother and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie.
“For me, my mom played in the WNBA, so my first memory would be probably around two or three, and she played for the Sparks with Lisa Leslie, so that was like my great memory, like watching my mom, being tugged around to practice and all of that stuff.”
Her aunt, Trisha Stafford-Odom, an all-time great for the University of California, also played in the WNBA (Houston in 2001 and Miami in 2002).
However, Boyette did not seem to feel that having a family legacy would give her any special advantage on being ready for the pros.
“I don’t think there’s any way I can be prepared,” Boyette said. “Like I’m really nervous. But I talked to my brother and I talked to Lisa, my mom, and all of that kind of thing, make sure you’re prepared and go into training camp being confident in what you do well, and my brother was the same, like sit back and enjoy it. This is going to go so fast, so just like take everything in.”
The WNBA draft takes place Thursday, April 14, 2016 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 7 p.m. ET. ESPNU will air coverage of the second and third rounds starting at 8 p.m. ET.