The Daily Princetonian caught up with senior women’s basketball captain Bella Alarie minutes after the Ivy League announced that it had cancelled its tournament for both the women’s and men’s teams. Alarie, a leader on and off the court, discussed her time playing with USA Basketball, her favorite Princeton memories, and life on a deserted island.
The Daily Princetonian: So why don’t you tell us a bit about your path to playing basketball and what that looked like?
Bella Alarie: I started playing really young. My dad played in the NBA and at Duke, so basketball’s always been a big part of my life. I just fell in love with it immediately. I could have gone to a high school that was better at basketball, but I picked a good academic high school and wanted the full college experience that Princeton could bring. It was the best option. I just had a gut feeling. It was a great family; the team, the coaches, and everything was perfect here.
DP: Thinking back to your first year here — did you have a ‘welcome to college’ moment that sticks out to you?
BA: Wow. Yeah, I remember the first practice just being so fast-paced and physical. I played as hard as I could, but I wasn’t dominating everyone like I could in high school. I was like, ‘wow, this is definitely gonna be a battle every day on the floor.’ I was skinny — not strong yet — and was just getting knocked around and kind of realized I couldn’t get by with just being tall anymore.
DP: What do you think is the weirdest or most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you in a game?
BA: Oh I mean, anytime I get blocked, I just think, ‘this is so annoying.’ That is what I’m supposed to do and when I get blocked, I’m just like, ‘Oh my god.’ I would also say that any time I’m playing defense and I get switched onto someone who is really quick and small, I just think to myself, ‘please don’t fall,’ because I don’t want to get crossed over.
DP: What’s your favorite team tradition?
BA: Off the court, we watch the Bachelor together on Mondays. And for games, [Head] Coach [Carla] Berube has to make a half-court shot, and it’s hilarious. It goes in either on the fifth shot or, like, the 80th one.
DP: Do you have a career highlight that you love to think back to?
BA: Yeah, I would say, for me, I feel like this whole season has been so amazing and more than I ever expected for my senior year. Especially since we found out last spring that there would be a whole new coaching staff for my last year here — I was pretty worried because those are usually transition years that don’t go well for teams, but it’s gone beyond my expectations. It’s been literally a dream come true to play so well. Definitely this Ivy season has been one big highlight.
DP: You have experienced a series of different coaching staffs. Do you have any funny stories about any coach?
BA: Coach Berube is hilarious but you wouldn’t realize it immediately, and I feel like she’s one of those people who you wouldn’t realize is actually one of the biggest goofballs. After our games, we do headphone karaoke on the bus, which is like silent karaoke. After we won at Cornell and did a full sweep of the Ivy League, all of our coaches sang during karaoke. It was hilarious. We had them singing Wagon Wheel [by Darius Rucker]. So yeah, they’re all very lighthearted and fun. Every day there is something funny that they do.
DP: What would you say is the best part of being an athlete on campus?
BA: I think it’s the community around the athletes. We’re all supportive of each other; we always see different teams at our games and we'll go to their games. And a family is built around the team — like there are advisors and professors on campus who know you from coming to games and cheer you on. One of our faculty fellows of the team is Stacy Wolf, who is [a professor] in the theater department, and I’m in one of her seminars this year.
It is so cute walking into class and she is always cheering about our latest win. I think it is how supportive everyone is of the different sports teams and the love you get from everyone.
DP: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three things would you bring?
BA: My phone. And I would probably bring my mom. She’s so resourceful and is my favorite person ever. So I would just want to hang out with her. And then I feel like I need Netflix to survive.
DP: What teammate of yours do you think would be able to survive on this island?
BA: [Sophomore] Lexi Weger. I love that girl. Yeah, she would survive somehow. I don’t know how, but she would do it.
DP: What teammate would you not want to be stuck on a deserted island with?
BA: I feel like there’s different people for different reasons. I would say — well [senior] Taylor Baur is my best friend ever, but she would freak out. And it would be stressful and she would just stress me out. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on an island with her.
DP: What is your favorite class that you have taken at Princeton?
BA: I’m a history major, and I took “In the Groove: Technology and Music in American History, From Edison to the iPod'' with [Professor] Emily Thompson in the history department. The class is about the history of music and technology in the United States. It was the class that made me realize that I wanted to major in history, just because of how passionate she was about history and the topics she was teaching about.
DP: What is your thesis topic?
BA: I’m writing about Shuffle Along, which is a musical in 1921. And how it kind of parallels the Harlem Renaissance to Broadway. I’m randomly super obsessed with Broadway. It’s my secret passion, and so I wanted to write about it and that is kind of what I landed on.
DP: What’s your favorite Broadway show?
BA: Okay. Well I love Hamilton, that’s like such a cop out answer. But I recently saw the Tina Turner musical the other week with one of my classes, and it was really good. But literally every show I go to is like my favorite show.
DP: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
BA: Okay, well I want a photographic memory but like that isn’t a superpower. I don’t know. But I feel like that comes in handy. Or I think flying would just be so fun. I don’t really know how it’d be useful but just to be able to like fly around. I just feel like it is also efficient. Like traffic isn’t an issue. And like I could jump higher. They might not even realize that I am flying.
DP: What are you going to miss the most about Princeton?
BA: I think being so close with all my friends and being five minutes away from everyone. That’s kind of the part that I dread most about adult life. You make so many amazing connections, then they are all spread out over the country after you leave.
DP: Was the transition to playing for Princeton to the USA team a difficult one? What about the transition from playing on the USA team to playing for Princeton again?
BA: The harder transition is going from Princeton to playing for the USA because at Princeton, the offense ends up running around me, and I am the center point of a lot of plays and the defense. When you play for the USA team, you know what your skills and strengths are, and you play a role on the team.
You are also playing with 11 other people [who] you’ve never played with before; the chemistry is difficult and it’s a very short time to get to a comfortable point of playing together. But then coming back, I think you gain a lot of confidence and you learn how to play in a new system, learn from new coaches, and gain new insights. It is easier to transition back to Princeton because you bring more back with you.