At 5-foot-4, D’Alie still dominates the game

Rae Lin D’Alie, who led the Waterford Wolverines to the 2006 state championship game, delivers a pass for Italy in World Cup action. (Submitted/SLN)

 

By Andrew Horschak

Sports Correspondent

If this summer is any indication, there appears to be no slowing down former Waterford High School star Rae Lin D’Alie on the basketball court.

Entering her eighth season playing professionally in Italy, the 5-foot-4 ball-handling wizard sparked her Italian team to the championship in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup in the Philippines in early June.

A crowd favorite during the tournament, D’Alie picked up Most Valuable Player honors after scoring seven points in her team’s 16-12 victory over defending champion Russia in the gold-medal game.

Italy, which also included Giulia Ciavarella, Marcella Filippi and Giulia Rulli, went 3-1 in pool play and reached the final with victories over the United States (17-14) and top-seeded China (15-13).

D’Alie and her victorious teammates were a big hit when they returned to Italy. The hero’s welcome didn’t end there.

D’Alie recently returned to Wisconsin for a six-week stay, which included standing up in the wedding of her brother, Vincent, to Kelsy Foat on July 28 in Burlington. She will head back to Bologna, Italy, on Sept. 3 where she will begin preparations for her third season with Progresso of the Italian Basketball League (Second Division).

Recently, Southern Lakes Newspapers caught up with the 2006 Waterford graduate and former All-State standout to talk about her eventful summer and life in Italy.

  SLN: Do you speak Italian?

      RLD: I do. I do.

SLN: How proficient are you?

      RLD: Well, my whole life is in Italian when I’m over there. I actually study in Italian as well. I’m pretty integrated.

SLN: Before your first season, you had some Italian in your background?

      RLD: Oh, no. I had zero (laughs).

SLN: How often do you get back home?

      RLD: I typically come home for Christmas and at some point during the summer.

SLN: How can you sum up what it’s like living in Italy?

      RLD: It’s adventurous. It’s very humbling. Everything you know about the way you do things kind of gets challenged. It opens your mind to see how you can learn to be better. It’s an experience that’s been used to create passion for people of all different ethnicities and backgrounds. I have a big heart now for traveling and meeting different people.

SLN: Does the team put you up in an apartment? How does that work?

      RLD: In the last seven years, I’ve mostly lived with teammates. I’ve been studying theology these last three years with the evangelical church over there, so I wanted to live with a couple of my classmates. This last year I lived with an architect, a physical therapist and two girls studying at the university.

SLN: What do you do when you’re not playing basketball?

      RLD: I really like to travel. I’m really involved in the church that I go to. I do a lot of activities with kids around the city. I just like to be with the Italians – going to people’s houses, hanging out with locals.

SLN: Was last month’s victory in the FIBA World Cup and MVP award one of your greatest basketball accomplishments?

      RLD: I think this tournament in particular was the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced as an athlete. So far, it was definitely the greatest achievement as an athlete as well.

SLN: Had you taken part in the event previously?

      RLD: This was my second World Cup. Last year we got knocked out in the quarterfinals.

SLN: How does one qualify or get invited to play in it?

      RLD: There are different tryouts. They cut it down to eight people and then four. There is one team that represents each country.

SLN: What was the overall experience like? From reading different stories, it sounded like you were a big hit with the Filipino crowd.

      RLD: It was pretty crazy. I think there were 10,000 people at the final. At one point, they were chanting in Italian. It was like, ‘Wow. Here’s a nation chanting for another nation.’ That was really a cool experience. The Filipino people were just amazing. Really supportive. Very encouraging. Very hospitable in the hotel and around the city. They would stop us and take photos.

SLN: Why do you think they embraced you so much?

      RLD: Maybe just because I’m a smaller player. When a group of people sees somebody do something with some courage, or something that seems a little more difficult to do … even going back to playing in the Big Ten, I’m typically the smallest one out there. I think some people get inspired just to see what some people would identify as a weakness being used as a strength.

SLN: You mean you didn’t shoot up six or eight inches since arriving in Italy?

      RLD: (Laughs) I wish, but no. Actually now I don’t wish. Speed is really a great thing to have in this game.

SLN: I watched the highlights from the recent tournament. You don’t appear to be slowing down. Not that I’m pushing you out the door or anything, but have you given much thought to your life after basketball?

      RLD: This has really just opened another chapter for me as an athlete, especially now that (3×3) is becoming an Olympic sport (in Tokyo in 2020). I think that has given me a whole other level of motivation. I felt great this summer at this tournament. I can see myself playing for a while. I have brothers who played for quite a bit. My brother (Anthony) is a couple years older than me and he’s a wrestling coach. He gets in there with those guys all the time.

SLN: How many more basketball seasons do you have left in you?

      RLD: Well, I’m 30 and I’m pretty optimistic. I think I could get another 10 if I wanted to, but I don’t know if that’s how my life is going to go. I’m still feeling strong, though. Feeling fast and healthy.

SLN: How does 3-on-3 suit your game?

      RLD: I think I’m much more fit for it because there’s more space. Being a smaller player, you can drive a little bit more. If you can get by people and someone comes to help (defensively), then you automatically create a shot for your teammate. In the 5-on-5 game, people can rotate in close space. It’s really, really intense and up-tempo. I’m a high-rhythm player. I just think it fits all of my characteristics.

SLN: It has been quite a ride for you since your days with the Waterford Wolverines and even before that. Is it amazing to think where this sport has taken you?

      RLD: Oh, yeah, for sure. Opportunity is the word that I would use. I’ve gotten to travel the world and meet a lot of people. Basketball is a great instrument that cannot only help you grow as an athlete but as an individual.

 

 

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