Alarie ties Harvard’s Allison Feaster as the Ivy League’s highest-ever draft pick
On Friday night, the Dallas Wings selected Princeton forward Bella Alarie with the fifth pick in the WNBA Draft, closing the books on Alarie’s unprecedented Ivy League career. Referring to the virtual format of the event, which was in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, Alarie called it “a historic draft”—but she easily could have said the same about her role in it. Back in November, I wrote that Alarie was on the verge of setting several Tigers records and could be a historically high WNBA draft pick. With many of those predictions having come true, it’s time to recap what Alarie accomplished on Friday night and in Princeton orange.
A difference-maker from Day 1
In her first collegiate game, an eight-point loss to Rider, Alarie scored 24 of Princeton’s 62 points and added 7 rebounds. (Rider’s Stella Johnson, who was the No. 29 pick in Friday’s draft, had 20 points and 6 steals.) From there, Alarie made history at every turn.
Entering her senior season, she was already Princeton’s all-time leader in blocked shots and closing in on several other records. She played 106 games in her career, several short of the program’s top 10 list, yet she ranks first in program history in points (1,703), second in rebounds (964), first in double-doubles (40), and first in blocks (249, nearly 100 more than second place). Alarie also holds the top four spots in Princeton history in blocks in a season and the top three spots in points in a single game (45, 41, and 38, all in Ivy League play in 2019).
Throughout her career, Alarie was the class of the Ivy League, and she became a nationally recognized name by the end of her time in New Jersey. She was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2017, Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018-20, and AP All-America Honorable Mentions in 2019 and 2020. That made her the first two-time All-American in league history and the third three-time Player of the Year.
Alarie also led the Tigers to team success, including three Ivy League titles and a 72-17 record in her final three seasons. Princeton was ranked in the AP top 25 for six weeks this season, the program’s first ranking since its historic 30-1 season in 2014-15. And High Post Hoops bracketologist Russ Steinberg slotted this year’s 26-1 Tigers into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed, which would’ve been the best seed in team history. “I think we were going to play our best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, go on a run, and we were really putting Princeton on the map,” Alarie said on Friday. “We had the No. 1 defense in the country, so [I’m] just really proud to be a part of that.”
The highest draft pick in Princeton history…
Alarie is now the fourth Ivy League player and the third Tiger to be drafted into the WNBA, following Harvard’s Allison Feaster (1998), Harvard’s Temi Fagbenle (2016, after playing one season as a graduate student at USC), and Princeton’s Leslie Robinson (2016). Alarie was the first Princeton player ever picked in the first round and the first from the Ivy League since Feaster, who was also drafted fifth overall, 22 years ago.
“To be representing my team and my league, the Ivy League, is a huge honor,” Alarie said shortly after being selected. “… Allison Feaster was an amazing player, but it has been a long time since we’ve had a first-round draft pick out of our league.” Alarie added, “I hope that I can be a role model to girls when they’re thinking about where they want to go to school and play basketball.”
…And family history
Alarie’s father is former Duke star and five-year NBA player Mark Alarie, and her godfather is Alarie’s former Duke teammate Jay Bilas. But “[Bella] going pro was not really on anyone’s mind,” Mark recently told The Washington Post’s Ava Wallace. Bella was a 5’7 guard as a high school freshman, and her growth spurt happened late enough that, early in her freshman year of college, then-Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart called Mark and asked why Bella didn’t have any post moves.
Luckily, Bella developed an inside game to match her guard skills, which piqued the interest of WNBA scouts. Before the draft was converted to a virtual event, Bella was expected to be one of the players invited to attend in person. Instead, she got a formal invitation to the virtual draft and equipment from ESPN to film her reaction. The unexpected setting—at home with family—wound up resembling her father’s draft night, which, Wallace reported, involved “simply crack[ing] a few beers with friends in their apartment at Duke.”
With her selection at No. 5, Bella became the highest pick of the family, topping her father (No. 18) and Bilas (No. 108, when the draft lasted six rounds and included 134 picks). Asked about family bragging rights, Bella laughed and said, “I’ll definitely be using that to my advantage.”
What could be next
In November, I wrote of Alarie’s professional future:
Assuming that Alarie makes a WNBA roster after the draft, she will also become just the fourth Ivy League player to appear in a WNBA game, joining Feaster, Fagbenle, and Princeton’s Blake Dietrick, who went undrafted in 2015 but has played 46 games for three different teams. … [Alarie] could be considered the Ivy League’s second-most accomplished WNBA player as soon as next fall if she has an impactful rookie season. Dietrick has worked out with Alarie and clearly believes in her potential, even comparing her to a WNBA MVP. “She reminds me of [Elena] Delle Donne, quite frankly,” Dietrick told High Post Hoops.
All of that holds true today, and now we know Alarie’s destination: the rebuilding Dallas Wings, who also selected Oregon forward Satou Sabally and South Carolina point guard Tyasha Harris in the first round. “I love Dallas,” Alarie said on Friday. “Having conversations with the coaches and the GM, I’m really excited about the future, my future in Dallas and our future as a team.” Asked how her skills will translate to the WNBA, Alarie responded:
I think I bring a lot of versatility. … I’m coachable as a player and I can fit into different systems, and whatever is asked of me I can do, so I think that will translate … I’m 6-4, but I can stretch the floor, and I have good footwork, so I can play inside or outside, and I can play around this young exciting team that plays basketball at a really fast pace, and I’m excited to defend, to play great team basketball, and yeah, just be whatever help I can be on the court.
Alarie admitted that she had been more nervous than expected leading up to the draft, but even in its new format, it was special. “It’s kind of the culmination of all my hard work over my life as a basketball player,” she said.
At least, for now. Alarie made history for Princeton and carried her team into the national spotlight, and Dallas is betting that she and her fellow rookies will do even bigger things whenever they can return to the court.
Data on Princeton program records are from the Princeton Women’s Basketball Information Central and Record Book, and historical WNBA draft data was provided by High Post Hoops’ and Across the Timeline’s Kurtis Zimmerman.
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