BOLOGNA (Italy) – Rae Lin D’Alie, standing at 1.62m (5ft 4in) (with shoes on), is often towered over by her opponents. Whether she is playing basketball or 3×3, the American-born Italy star is not the first person you might choose for a pickup game.
What a mistake that would be.
“Rae Rae” is one of the toughest, most creative players we have in the women’s game, and with everything to gain this summer, she has her eyes set on topping her prior 3×3 success and blazing a gold-laced trail.
Like most, D’Alie had to deal with the impacts of the years-long pandemic, but her story begins a bit earlier than most.
As COVID-19 was morphing into a global event, Italy became an early epicenter. D’Alie was put in a precarious situation. She was locked down but had to keep in basketball shape.
“It was unchartered territory. There was a lot of fear because we had to stay inside. I went from playing 7 or 8 times per week to being locked down…It forced me into a moment where I had to pause, and it gave me a moment to reflect.”
She needed to stay in shape and prepare for a potential return of the basketball season and the 3×3 events coming up in mid-2020. As necessity is the mother of invention, her home workouts became whatever she could get her hands on.
For her ab rollouts, she used a skateboard. The hammock chain was converted for pullups and she even found a 15-kilogram stone and used it to do squats.
“I’ll admit, during the whole time, it was fun being creative and still keep positive energy and create something during that time.”
Fast-forward to early 2021, D’Alie returns to 3×3 to represent Italy on the international stage where she has been to the top of the mountain.
At the FIBA 3×3 World Cup 2018, D’Alie led the tournament in points (52), including 7 in the final, and earned MVP honors to win Italy’s first 3×3 gold.
The tournament didn’t even start all that great: Italy lost their opener to the Czech Republic, 21-20. It was at that moment though that she knew they could hang with the best.
“That was where I realized that we were a really great team.”
She would face the United States in the quarterfinal, the country, where she was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin. She had to put all of that aside during one of the biggest 3×3 games of her career.
“I didn’t have to put my identity aside, but I felt that being an athlete really transcended any other identity that I had at that moment… It was a challenge but one that I’m glad I got to live through because it helped me understand the joy it is to be an athlete and to play a game that you love.”
After defeating the USA, Italy won another nail-biter in the semifinals vs. China, 15-13, and defeated powerhouse Russia, 16-12 in the final.
“It’s a tournament I will remember forever, and it was one of a kind. The Filipino population got behind us and supported us and being on that stage at that moment. I’ve never experienced anything like that since. It’s all been quite mystical to me.”
Now, she turns her attention to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, taking place May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. D’Alie leads Italy, the 6th ranked team in the world, into the tournament in Pool D against Chinese Taipei, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria.
It’s been a while since she’s been back on the court with her teammates, but they are ready to go.
“Our team really haven’t been back on the court since (the Europe Cup 2019). We’re in the mindset that we know where we’ve been, the good and the bad. We’re coming in hungrier than anything… We have been dreaming about it for four or five years now. We know who we are and what we have to offer.”
What D’Alie has to offer is total dominance. During the Women’s Series 2019, she led the field in points (225), highlights (131), and a staggering 10 triple-fives.
Her efforts on the court have propelled her to #5 in the women’s individual world rankings. But, no matter how much success she has or how many medals go around her neck, it’s all about being better than the day before.
“Every day I think the person I’m trying to beat is myself. My greatest enemy is myself; I try to be better than who I was before.”
In the past, she was self-admittedly plagued by comparison and perfectionism. As she grew and matured, she had to focus the attention on her weakness and make them strengths.
“Rankings, they’ve never meant much to me. When we won the World Cup in 2018, we weren’t highly ranked either. The most important thing to be me is being the best player I can be at the right time and try to get our team to be the best they can be to compete against the best in the world.”
When you see Rae Rae at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, remember one thing: she might be just 1.62m but there ain’t no mountains high enough for D’Alie. Not even the Austrian Alps.