Monday, April 20, 2020

With The Fifth Pick

Broadway in the 1920s?

That's a great thesis topic. Whose is it?

If you were watching the WNBA draft Friday night, you know the answer to that. It's Bella Alarie.

Of all of the great moments that have occurred in Princeton Athletics in all the time that TigerBlog has been around them, there was something uniquely special about the WNBA draft - for all kinds of reasons.

Unlike the draft in a regular year, this one was being done remotely, which meant all of the interviews and reactions were on video from the homes of the athletes. That isn't quite what TB means.

For starters, this was an actual live event in which the outcome was unknown. It's been awhile since there's been one of those in the surreal spring of 2020.

There have been all kinds of historical events that have been on TV. There have been simulated events that mean to fill the void.

Having something live was a bit different. And very much welcome.

Then there was the fact that Alarie figured to be such a high pick, somewhere in the 8-12 range, as TB wrote last week. She was pretty much a lock to be a first-round pick, something no Princeton player had been before in the WNBA and something only three had been in the NBA.

The show began at 7 with a montage of the top players, and Alarie was featured quite prominently. For Princeton fans, though, the main event still figured to be about an hour away, after the show's introduction and with the selections announced five minutes apart.

The first pick, by the New York Liberty, was obvious. It was Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon, who became the first college basketball player male or female to have at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Bill Bradley, by the way, had 2,503 points and 1,008 rebounds at a time when 1) Princeton scored a lot of points and 2) assists were not kept as an official stat.

The second pick was Ionescu's Oregon teammate Satou Sabally, who went to the Dallas Wings. Sabally was the first of three selections the Wings would have among the top seven.

By the way, having the top two picks makes you think Oregon would have been a tough out in the NCAA tournament. 

As for TigerBlog, he was watching Season 4 of "Boardwalk Empire" on his TV while following the draft on his laptop. As the show moved into the third pick, TB felt that it was still a few picks away from Alarie.

The fourth pick was Lauren Cox of Baylor, to Indiana. Then Atlanta selected Chennedy Carter of Texas A&M. Then there was a commercial.

Getting closer, TB thought.

Then the show came back from the commercial. Out of the corner of his eye, TB saw Alarie's face.

She was No. 5? Wow.

He moved the video back to when the commercial ended, and it was true. With the fifth pick, the Wings selected Alarie.

The player that Dallas gets is the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history with 1,703 points. One of her strengths is her versatility - she can handle the ball, shoot the three-pointer, pass and break a press, but she's also 6-4, so she can guard bigger players, block shots and rebound.

After she was selected, it was her turn to be interviewed. She spoke about her versatility, and she was also asked the standard "it's a Princeton kid so there needs to be an academic question asked too" question, which in this case was the subject of her senior thesis.

TB doesn't really love those questions, because they can shortchange the athletic aspect of the person (in Alarie's case, she was the fifth pick of the draft) and at the same time devalue the academic aspect of the experience of the other players, none of whom appeared to be asked about their own educational careers.

Still, TB was fascinated by the answer - Broadway in the 1920s.

The reaction from Princeton's other teams and Princeton fans was universal. Alarie, even without ever stepping onto a pro court, has already established herself as one of the most-loved Princeton athletes TB has seen, and she graduates with what TB would believe is a 100 percent approval rating.

It comes from how she's played, as in the skills that made her one of the very best in women's college athletics and also in HOW she played, with a rare combination of grace and grit.

And yet for all of that, TB still hasn't gotten to what was the best part, the one that made it such a special event.

It was the video of her reaction, and the reaction of her family, including her father Mark, himself a former first-round professional basketball selection (the 18th overall selection in the 1986 NBA draft). TB saw a note that said they are now the third father/daughter combination to be first round NBA/WNBA picks.

That reaction video, her emotion that led her to cover her face in her hands surrounded by a family whose pride leapt off the screen, is what elevated that moment into one of the best TB has seen for a Princeton athlete.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have a video clip of Bella's and her family's reaction to the announcement of her pick as 5th in the draft? I'm sure many Tiger fans who missed the ESPN show would like to see a video clip. Thanks.