Ivy League Duo Forms Special Bond As USA U19 Teammates
The date was May 18, 2017. They remember it because it was snowing. Talk about a start to summer.
Jeannie Boehm, a 6-foot-3 forward from Winnetka, Illinois, arrived at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the aspiration of making her second USA Basketball team in as many years.
Boehm won a gold medal with the 2016 USA Women’s U18 National Team at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile. As a Harvard commit, she became the first Crimson athlete – and first Ivy Leaguer – to ever appear with the USA U18s.
But on May 18, a surprise unrelated to 40-degree temperatures in mid-May greeted Boehm. Her roommate for trials, which included a total of 33 athletes, was Bella Alarie (Bethesda, Md.). Bella goes to Princeton.
So, there they were – athletes from rival Ivy League institutions, competing against one another for the opportunity to represent the USA in the world’s most respected youth basketball competition. After three grueling days, though, Alarie and Boehm didn’t recognize one another as competitors. They knew one another as friends. And then, as teammates.
“It was interesting because I had never really met her before,” said Boehm, as Alarie eavesdropped only steps away. “You know, Princeton and Harvard are rivals, and she’s Princeton’s best player so I didn’t know what to think at the time.”
“But Bella, she is super cool and we get along really well. We definitely understand one another’s experiences having come from the Ivy League.”
“We were always recruited by the same schools, since we were in that Ivy League circuit,” said Alarie. “You get the same coaches looking at you, but I had heard of Jeannie and I had seen her around, but I never really met her until we got here, until we got to trials.”
“Obviously, I mean, we are super close already.”
Alarie and Boehm have about as much Ivy pride as you will find. It runs through them, to be frank. Boehm’s ultimate achievement is to become a Rhodes Scholar and her favorite class was calculus. Her brother, Peter, played basketball at Harvard and another brother, Connor, played at Dartmouth. Her uncle, Mike, was a Yale football athlete.
And Bella, her favorite class? Philosophical analysis. Her grandfather, Norman, graduated from Princeton in 1957, and served as a professor at Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1997-99.
Now, the pair will be the first Ivies to play with the USA U19s in 12 all-time installments of the biennial competition, which dates back to 1985.
“To have two Ivy League players on this team of 12 players, it’s a huge honor for us to be able to represent our schools and our league,” began Alarie, who was a first team All-Ivy League selection as well as Ivy League Rookie of the Year. She led Princeton in four categories, including scoring and rebounding with 12.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
“We don’t have a huge reputation in the Ivy League as being a basketball conference, and we are super underestimated as Princeton, as Harvard and as a league itself on the national level, but, don’t doubt the Ivy League. We are on the rise. We have a lot of great talent coming, and we are showing how good we can be on the national level. We aren’t playing easy schools in the non-conference schedule. We’ll be beating good teams from across the country.”
Princeton and Harvard were WNIT teams in 2017, and finished second and third place, respectively, in the conference regular season. The Tigers got the better of the Crimson, winning all three matchups. Both players started each contest with Alarie averaging 16 ppg., including posting a career-high 16 rebounds against Harvard on March 11, while Boehm went for 5.3 ppg. and 7.0 rpg. against Princeton.
At 6-foot-4, Alarie torched opposing guards from the perimeter. Boehm joked that she wants a piece of Alarie in next year’s matchups, and that’s she’s already tired of the grief. But, she laughs, and points out what she likes about Bella’s skillset.
“You know, she’s a great shooter. Her length is so hard to deal with under the basket, and she’s a really good finisher, too.”
“Bella is really outstanding because she’s very versatile,” added USA U19 assistant and Elon University head coach Charlotte Smith. “We love that she can play inside and out. She poses that threat from the outside with her deadly 3-point shooting and she is a great finisher inside, as well.”
“And then Jeannie, she’s a blue collar worker. She’s very physical and tough down there on the block. She does a great job of sealing. Bella, she’s a great passer from the high post. So, in our high low offense, they really compliment each other in terms of passing and executing that offense.”
There is no lack of chemistry between the two rising sophomores, either. Bella says they “hang out all the time” and that Jeannie is her Ivy League ally.
She’s not kidding. Leaving ice treatment, they are together. At the USOTC dining hall – together. Leaving the gym – together. Are they inseparable? Jeannie only laughed at the question.
The duo probably didn’t imagine their newly kindled friendship back at the start of trials, but now, there’s no doubt the USA U19 team is going to need their connection out on the court in pursuit of a seventh-consecutive gold medal.
The USA will open the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup against Mali on July 22, in Udine, Italy. No. 14 and No. 9 on the court will be making the Ivy League proud.
And, when Alarie and Boehm square off in two conference regular season games this next season, the handshake line may have a little twist. They aren’t rivals anymore, they’re great friends.