COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Aliyah Boston felt helpless, but never more determined to help.
Early last September, Hurricane Irma smacked the Virgin Islands and Boston's hometown of St. Thomas as a Category 5 storm with wind gusts as high as 225 miles per hour. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria -- another Category 5 storm -- hit the Virgin Islands with a storm surge followed by weeks of rain.
Boston, a junior at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, lost contact with her parents and desperately searched for news.
"I had a couple of breakdowns, but we're good," Boston said.
Her parents came through the storms with no issues but Boston saw and heard of the damage on the islands and knew she needed to do something.
"I grew up there and all my family is there," Boston said. "It's still me. To see the hurricanes mess up everything ... It sucked. I tried to get canned food to send and raise money to send and was able to give to a relief program, My Brother's Workshop, and they were able to get it out to the people."
As the Virgin Islands recovered, Boston turned her focus back to basketball. Already considered one of the top players in the Class of 2019, the 6-foot-4 center had her best season and led Worcester Academy to the New England prep school Class AA championship.
She is at the United States Olympic Training Center here hoping to earn a spot on USA Basketball's U-17 national team that will take part in the FIBA U-17 World Cup in Minsk, Belarus, in July.
"I need to just play, just be relaxed, and do the things that I know I can do," Boston said.
Boston came almost out of nowhere at the U-17s two years ago, starting as an applicant candidate and ending up among 17 finalists for the team. Though she didn't make the 12-player squad, she set herself up to be national team-level player.
A year ago, she made the USA U-16 team and was named the Most Valuable Player of the FIBA U-16 Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She averaged 11.8 points and 8.6 rebounds as the Americans won the gold medal and qualified for this summer's U-17 World Cup.
"It definitely boosted my confidence, but I couldn't have done it without my 11 teammates," Boston said. "They pushed me every day in training camp and it was because of them I did as well as I did."
Her strong play continued through her season at Worcester Academy as she averaged 21.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 6.2 blocked shots and had four triple-doubles and 19 double-doubles in 24 games.
Worcester Academy (23-1) won its first Class AA title with a 59-54 victory over Tabor Academy -- the alma mater of UConn junior Molly Bent -- behind Boston's 15 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks.
"It was unbelievable," Boston said. "My teammate Kiera Fernandes and I have been the only one there for all my three years. We were close the first two years and this year we were able to do it."
Later in March, Boston was named Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.
"I think I've been able to develop my outside game over the last year," Boston said. "That's really helped me. It didn't make me uncomfortable because I knew it was something that I had to do. It had to happen. There would be people around school going, 'She can't shoot' and things like that. They can't say that now because I've worked hard at it."
Also in March she and U-16 teammates Samantha Brunelle and Paige Bueckers as well as USA Basketball newcomer Hailey Van Lith got together to win the U-18 3x3 national championship. The four will represent their country at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October.
She may have been unknown when she came here two years ago, but now everyone knows who she is.
"It may put a little more pressure on because it makes me realize that I have to work harder," Boston said. "I can't be comfortable, because then there will be a lot of people here working harder than me. I have to continue to show my different skill sets. I don't take it for granted."
College coaches know who she is. She was not ready to disclose her college list, but did say the University of Connecticut is on it and that she was planning to set up an official recruiting visit to Storrs for the fall. She is rated the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2019 by ESPN Hoopgurlz.
One of her goals is to play in the WNBA.
"I want to be pushed. I want to become a better player," Boston said.
Her work to help her hometown shows what kind of person she is.