February 5, 2023
Ivy League reacts to Princeton legend Bella Alarie’s retirement from professional basketball
Alarie was one of the best players in Ivy League history and a top-five WNBA draft pick
NEW YORK – On Feb. 2, former Princeton star and Dallas Wings forward Bella Alarie announced her retirement from professional basketball at the age of 24. Alarie had not played in the WNBA since 2021, as she sat out the 2022 season to rest before retiring this year.
In identical posts on Twitter and Instagram, Alarie wrote in part, “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. … I am beyond grateful to the Wings for my time with them and for the opportunity they gave me. And now, more than ever, I am so grateful to them for understanding my decision to move on.”
Alarie, a 6’4 do-it-all forward, played for Princeton from 2016-20 and was a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, two-time AP All-American and two-time WBCA All-American. She was also the 2017 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a four-time First-Team All-Ivy League selection. In 106 career games, she averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks while shooting 48.0% from the field and 34.8% from 3-point range.
Alarie ranks first in Princeton history in career points (1,703), blocks (249) and double-doubles (40) and ranks second in career rebounds (964). Her block total is nearly double that of Ellen DeVoe, who sits in second place with 157. Alarie also owns the top three highest-scoring games in Princeton history with 45, 41 and 38 points — all of which she achieved in a 16-day span in February 2019.
With Alarie on the roster, Princeton advanced to two NCAA Tournaments and was poised to make another in 2019-20, when it had the nation’s top-ranked defense and a record of 26-1 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the Ivy League and NCAA Tournaments. Princeton won 74% of its games overall and 84% of its conference games in Alarie’s four seasons.
In April 2020, the Wings selected Alarie fifth overall in the WNBA Draft, tying her with Harvard’s Allison Feaster for the Ivy League’s highest ever draft pick. “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,” she said on draft night.
In 53 career games with Dallas in 2020 and 2021, Alarie made 14 starts and averaged 2.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks while shooting 43.1% from the field. She was particularly impactful defensively, ranking in the top 10 in the WNBA in both seasons in block rate.
“I feel so honored to have coached her and know that she’s one of the greatest women’s basketball players ever to play in the Ivy League,” Princeton head coach Carla Berube told reporters on Feb. 4 after a win at Columbia. “… I’m happy for her that she’s just moving on to sort of another phase of her life and [I’m] excited for her and I love her.”
Berube recalled how Alarie was like “a cheat code” on the court because she was so versatile. Berube pointed to an overtime loss at Iowa on Nov. 20, 2019, in which Alarie scored 26 points on 7-for-14 shooting on 2-pointers and 3-for-4 shooting on 3-pointers. She also had seven rebounds, four blocks and three assists against just one turnover.
Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin cited another game in which Alarie dominated offensively, but he remembered it primarily for her defense. In the Ivy League Tournament final on March 17, 2019, Alarie scored a game-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, but she also held Penn star Eleah Parker to 10 points on 5-for-23 shooting. The game was tied at 51 with under seven minutes left, but Princeton’s defense stifled Penn from there in a 65-54 win.
“She just defensively is a problem, you know?” McLaughlin told The Next with a chuckle on Feb. 3. “So sometimes defensively is where she gave us the most problems because she’s just — her length, her ability to move, she understood the game, and she was in a really good scheme for them.”
“She represented our league the right way,” he added. “… Truly one of the better players I have seen [in] my 14 years here at Penn.”
For Columbia head coach Megan Griffith, who was an assistant coach at Princeton from 2012-16 and helped recruit Alarie, the memory that came to mind wasn’t one of Alarie’s standout games. Instead, she remembered how Alarie, then committed to but not yet enrolled at Princeton, sat with Griffith and then-Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart at a game at Walt Whitman High School in Alarie’s hometown of Bethesda, Maryland. The Princeton coaching staff was recruiting Abby Meyers, who would ultimately choose Princeton and become the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2021-22.
“Just sitting there and seeing a kid that was so genuinely promoting her new school … that was just a cool moment for me to see a kid paying it forward that wasn’t even in a Princeton jersey yet,” Griffith told The Next on Feb. 3, crediting Alarie with helping the staff land Meyers.
Several other current and former Princeton coaches also tweeted tributes to Alarie. Banghart praised Alarie for having “paved the way” for future players to go from the Ivy League to the WNBA, while former Princeton assistant coach and current Harvard head coach Carrie Moore wrote in part, “Congrats on a legendary career that will [forever] be remembered.”
Some current Ivy League players even played with or against Alarie, reinforcing how young she is as she retires. Princeton senior guard Julia Cunningham, who played with Alarie for two seasons, immediately recalled Alarie’s 45-point game at Columbia.
“I was in awe,” Cunningham told reporters on Feb. 4. “It was so incredible to watch, and she was standing at the free-throw line cramping after she scored 45 points and I was like, ‘Go take a rest. You deserve it.’ … I was just sitting there like, ‘She’s just incredible.’”
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In her retirement announcement, Alarie thanked her teammates, coaches, family and friends for their belief in her. She wrote that she is excited to pursue “opportunities on the business side of sports and the game that I’ve always loved.”
“That’s one thing an Ivy League degree prepares you for is just life after basketball,” current Columbia assistant coach Cy Lippold, who played against Alarie for three years as a point guard at Dartmouth, told The Next on Feb. 3. “So I’m glad that she was able to feel confident in making the decision to retire and move on to what her next step in life looks like.”
Alarie retires after rewriting the Princeton and Ivy League record books and helping to raise the profiles of her school and conference. She also established herself in one of the most difficult leagues in the world, in any sport, to earn a roster spot.
“It was really fun to watch her, to work with her,” Berube said. “… She really just encompasses everything that’s great about women’s basketball.”
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.