It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at Princeton’s record book to learn her name.
Most points in a career: Bella Alarie ’20, 1703
Most points in a single game: Bella Alarie at Columbia (2/1/19), 45
Most double-doubles in a career: Bella Alarie, 40
Second-most rebounds in a career: Bella Alarie, 964
Most blocks in a career: Bella Alarie, 249
The list of Alarie’s accomplishments and accolades runs long, longer than most Ivy League women’s basketball players, longer than most who’ve touched the court at Jadwin Gym. She broke records at Princeton, became just the third Ivy League player to be drafted into the WNBA, was a trailblazer in the women’s three-on-three (3x3) game, and had a decorated overseas basketball career. In short, wherever there’s basketball, there’s been Bella Alarie.
But on Thursday, Feb. 2, Alarie took to social media to announce her career as a professional basketball player was coming to an end, and that she would instead pursue the business side of sports. This comes after Alarie sat out the 2022 WNBA season for personal reasons.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect during this past year and have decided to enter the next phase of my life and career,” Alarie wrote. “Basketball has given me so much and has provided me with so many incredible friends, experiences, and opportunities.”
“I mean, I love Bella. I’m really proud of her,” guard Julia Cunningham ’23 told The Daily Princetonian after the Tigers’ win over Columbia on Saturday. Cunningham was a first-year during Alarie’s junior season.
“I loved playing with her when she was here … obviously, we all support [Alarie’s decision]. This is a great step in the right direction for her,” Cunningham said.
While at Princeton, Alarie started every game she played in — and for good reason. She was already highly decorated in high school (the National Cathedral School in D.C.), where she posted a double-double in every game her senior year. In 2016, Alarie, the No. 83 ranked recruit in the country, would become Princeton’s first top-100 recruit since Vanessa Smith ’17 in 2013.
Such were the ways of Ivy League recruiting: maybe once every couple of years, a top-rated player would choose the Ancient Eight. Now, post-Alarie, Princeton and their Ivy counterparts regularly recruit from the upper echelons of girls’ basketball, with four current Tigers ranked in the top 100 out of high school.
“In high school, I never really thought of myself as someone who would achieve the things I have so far in college,” Alarie told The New York Times in 2019. “And when I was getting recruited, I did really want to put an emphasis on getting a really well-rounded college experience.”
Under former head coach Courtney Banghart, and eventually current head coach Carla Berube, Alarie quickly took over the Ivy League. In her first season, Alarie led the Tigers in both rebounding and scoring, while also setting a new Princeton first-year blocks record, on her way to becoming the 2016–17 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and earning her first of four First-Team All-Ivy nods.
By her junior year, it was clear Alarie was in a league all her own. On Feb. 1, 2019, against Columbia, she erupted for a massive 45-point, 14-rebound performance, eclipsing the all-time single-game Ivy League scoring record.
“I was sitting there like, she’s just incredible,” Cunningham, a first-year at the time, recounted. “She was standing at the free-throw line, cramping after she scored 45 points and I was like, ‘Go take a rest, like you deserve it.’
Berube, who coached Alarie in her senior season, recounted Alarie’s performance in Princeton’s 77–75 overtime loss to Iowa in 2019. The Hawkeyes would finish ranked No. 8 in the country by the end of the season. Yet, Alarie’s 26 points, and a clutch buzzer-beating three-pointer from Cunningham, kept the Tigers in the game until the very end.
“She could score at every level, she’s like a cheat code,” Berube said. “She really just encompasses everything that’s great about women's basketball.”
Alarie’s dominance rarely went unnoticed, leaving her with a heaping pile of accolades before she graduated Princeton in 2020, including three Ivy Player of the Year awards, two Ivy Defensive Player of the Year awards, two silver medals with USA Basketball, an AP All-American honorable mention, and a first-round pick in the WNBA draft to the Dallas Wings.
“I feel so honored to have coached her, knowing that she’s one of the greatest women’s basketball players ever to play in the Ivy League and had just an incredible career,” Berube said. “I’m happy for her that she’s just moving on to another phase of her life.”
Alarie’s time in professional basketball was short but sweet. She played 53 games with the Dallas Wings, averaging 2.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Overseas, she played half of a season with Galatasaray in Turkey, before finding a home in Salamanca, Spain playing with Perfumerias Avenida. With Avenida, she played in two EuroLeague Final Fours and won a Spanish League title in 2022. She signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour, had an unofficial fan club known as “The Bella Bunch,” and continues to be beloved by the women’s basketball and Princeton communities.
“I want to thank every single person who has supported me throughout my playing career and those who always believed in me,” Alarie wrote in her announcement. “Though I will no longer be on the court, I look forward to this new period of my career as I explore opportunities on the business side of sports and the game I’ve always loved.”
Isabel Rodrigues is a staff writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers women’s basketball.
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