Bella Alarie: A once-in-a-lifetime Tiger

Bella Alarie averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 rebounds. 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per game over a four-year career at Princeton during which she named Ivy Player of the Year three times and led the Tigers to three straight Ivy League championships. (Ivy League Network)

This has been a week of tumultuous developments in the Ivy League, most of them sad and disappointing.

But there has been some good news from the league as well. Players of the Year have been announced: Paul Atkinson from Yale and AJ Brodeur from Penn on the men’s side, and the incomparable Bella Alarie from Princeton, for the third year in a row, on the women’s.

Alarie is the only Princeton player to have won the POY award three times and to be named a first-team All-Ivy player in all four years of her college career. She has been more than a once-in-a-generation player. She has achieved once-in-a-lifetime status.

As she nears the end of her wondrous career, it might be fun to look back at some of the highlights, recognizing that there are far too many to catalog here. Bella will say her best moments are those she shared with her teammates and coaches winning three straight Ivy championships and four straight trips to the postseason.

While she has been surrounded by a lot of great players, something she emphasizes at every opportunity, the 2018-19 season demonstrated how indispensable Alarie is to her Tiger team. After suffering a preseason broken wrist, Alarie went to the bench for the first month of the season. The Tigers promptly lost seven of their first eight starts. When Bella returned to the lineup, Princeton compiled a league-best 12-2 record and then qualified for the Big Dance by winning Ivy Madness. Alarie earned tourney MVP honors. When asked how she coped with her injury, Bella said she used the time to work on moves with her good arm.

Her precocious development drew notice from the USA Basketball organization when she was a teenager. She played on two Pan American Games squads, the U19 team in 2017 and the adult team in 2019, earning silver medals for each effort. She was also a silver medalist on the 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup team.

In her remarkable Tiger career she was named Ivy Player of the Week 20 times, something no other Tiger player has achieved. Earlier this month she became the all-time leading scorer in Tiger program history with 1,703 points, and counting. With every blocked shot after the middle of her junior year she sets a new program record and now has a total of 249. She compiled 40 double-doubles and holds Ivy League records for most points in a game (45) and field goals (20) against Columbia in 2019.

In 2019, Bella received honorable mention status for the WBCA All-America team. She has twice been named as USBWA Player of the Week. Earlier this week she was named a finalist for the Becky Hammond Mid-Major Player of the Year award presented by Her Hoops Stats.

Although her father Mark was a great college player at Duke, playing several seasons in the NBA, Bella has been a Tiger fan from a very early age. Her grandfather is a Princeton graduate and later taught at the university. He attended many reunions with his granddaughter starting when she was very young. When Courtney Banghart came calling at the National Cathedral School her target’s affinity for Old Nassau gave her a distinct advantage. Bella played three seasons for Banghart, helping her coach build a resume of national stature. At the end of the 2019 season the University of North Carolina sought Banghart to rehabilitate its moribund program.

The Tigers reached down to Dlll Tufts for the new coach, hiring the ultra-successful Carla Berube, a winner throughout her career as a player at every level and in 17 years at Tufts. She played on the 1995 NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies under Geno Auriemma. The Tigers didn’t miss a beat under their new skipper, enjoying a 26-1 season and a third straight Ivy title. The lone blemish on the Tiger record is an overtime loss at nationally ranked Iowa. The Tigers finished the season ranked themselves, No. 17 in the Coaches poll and No. 22 in the AP poll. Carla has instilled a culture of defense in the Tiger system, something her veteran squad has embraced with gusto. On offense, Alarie’s size and mobility enabled her teammates to get her the ball in positions unavailable to most teams. Once she had the ball, Alarie could score in close and not infrequently from deep.

Many observers believed Princeton was a legitimate Sweet 16 candidate this year, but we’ll never know for sure whether such a run would have happened. Regardless, Alarie will be remembered as the greatest Tiger in the history of a program that has showcased literally dozens of great players. Thank you, Bella, for all you have done. Best wishes for what we believe will be an impactful career in the WNBA.

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