Imani Boyette, Chicago Sky Center, Works Around Her Personal Demons

(CBS) Like most rookies, the Sky’s Imani Boyette is slowing adjusting to being a pro. She’s been stuck on the bench, playing a total of 10 minutes so far this season.

As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, that’s nothing compared to the obstacles that Boyette has had to overcome, to not only make it to the WBNA, but in life.

“It’s kind of scary to think that’s how I really felt,” the center says. “It’s scary to think about what could have been.”

The 21-year-old Boyette is a survivor. She was sexually abused by a relative and overdosed on pills several times trying to commit suicide before she graduated from high school.

“I was sexually abused from 8 to 12 (years old),” she says. “And I was kind of neglected by my stepmom. That kind of made me very depressed and I tried to kill myself three times.

“The last time I figured out obviously he wanted me here, so deal with it,” Boyette says with a smile.

Steady therapy is how she’s been able to cope. She was just three years old and caught in a bitter custody battle and didn’t see her mother much for more than a decade.

Her mom is Pam McGee, a former WNBA star, two-time national champion at USC and Olympic gold medalist.

“I was a mean little girl because I was angry that she wasn’t there,” Boyette says. “We both have our own struggles with mental illness, and not necessarily being able to open up about those. Sometimes our mental illnesses fight each other. It’s hard. I love my mom, but we are still very much a work in progress.”

Her aunt also played in the WNBA and her half-brother Javale McGee plays for the Dallas Mavericks. But the 6-foot-7 Imani never thought she was talented and rarely talked about her strong basketball lineage.

“Everyone knew my mom,” Boyette says. “She’s a Hall of Famer. And I wasn’t good, so people would be upset with me because they would expect me to be some All-American and I wasn’t. Her presence was always in the gym no matter what I did, so until our relationship got better and I got better, it was hard to deal with that.”

Her steady rock now is new husband Paul Boyette, a defensive tackle at the University of Texas. He urged her to reconcile with her mother, as well as use her basketball platform to help others who suffer with mental illness and sexual abuse.

“My purpose is to talk about these things because nobody talked about these things when I was going through it, so I thought like it was me, I was the only one in the world that had these issues, that I was only one who had been sexually abused, so now I talk about it because I think if one person sees it and decides to keep fighting and waits until they get to the other side than it’s worth it,” Boyette says.

Boyette flew back to Austin last Friday to get her accounting degree from University of Texas. She graduated with a 3.10 GPA. Her husband Paul is playing his last season with the Longhorns.

Basketball isn’t her first love. It’s poetry, which has helped her cope with some of her issues.

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