Alarie ’20 reaches new heights, with an occasional nudge from her coach

Bella Alarie ’20 led Princeton to a 13–3 start.
Beverly Schaefer
After she took just four shots in the first half of Princeton women’s basketball’s Ivy League opener at Penn, head coach Courtney Banghart emphasized the need for Alarie to take a leading role. 

“I was a little tentative,” Alarie said. “There were a lot of nerves going around with the first Ivy game of the year. My goal right from then on was to be super aggressive on the boards and try to get as many rebounds as I could and try to translate them into points for my team. I think that really worked out for me.”

Alarie went on to finish with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high eight blocks in the Tigers’ 70–55 win over the defending-champion Quakers Jan. 6. Through Jan. 13, Alarie led Princeton in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, rebounds, points, blocks, and minutes played. She also ranks among the team leaders in assists and steals.

“She doesn’t see herself as a star yet,” Banghart said. “I think she’s getting there. But honestly, I think she’s just grateful to be contributing ... as opposed to recognizing how much of a star she is.”

It’s hard to see how a 6-foot-4-inch forward with a smooth shooting stroke and imposing defensive presence could ever doubt herself. Alarie concedes that it “comes down to confidence.” As a younger player, she would let one bad performance torment her for weeks. At National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., Alarie played second fiddle to current Stanford point guard Marta Sniezek until her senior season. Alarie came to college unsure how much she’d contribute; she ended up starting every game and being named Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

“It wasn’t the freshman year I expected at all,” Alarie said. “It was tough because I had to learn a lot and be mentally tough and physically tough. I gained so much from that season last year.”

Even as a freshman, she led the Tigers in most statistical categories while learning to be more physical and compete with equally athletic opponents after facing few challengers in high school.

Alarie was learning the college game and at the same time playing a major role on a team that contended for the Ivy title. “Her consistency and ability to do that was remarkable,” Banghart said, “and now she’s understandably a better player because she’s older and more experienced.”

Banghart said Alarie got affirmation of her ability when she was selected for the USA women’s basketball under-19 national team last May. Alarie was shocked even to be invited to the tryout. She ended up starting for Team USA and won a silver medal in the World Championships. 

This year, while leading Princeton to a 13–3 start, she’s showed she can play in the post, something she rarely did in her freshman season. She remains a constant threat from the perimeter as well.

“I’d say I’m so much more confident as a player and also know I need to be more of a leader on the court,” Alarie said. “I did gain that over the summer.”

Banghart said Alarie’s versatility tops the list of things that set her apart, closely followed by her relentless competitive drive. Alarie has worked to expand her skills that were honed from a young age by her father, Mark Alarie, a former Duke standout and NBA veteran.

“It’s funny learning myself as a player and growing and figuring out that I can’t underestimate myself,” Alarie said. “Coach has told me I have a lot of potential as a player, and my dad has told me that. So every day it’s growing and learning what I can do and adding more skills to my skillset. It’s hard not to underestimate yourself, but at this point I need to grow out of that.”