Wisconsin’s ‘Rae Rae’ leads squad at Tokyo Games

Ken Maguire Ap Sports Writer
Friday, July 23, 2021
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In this Sunday, March 21, 2010 file photo, Wisconsin’s Rae Lin D’Alie in the second half of an NCAA first-round college basketball game in South Bend, Ind. AP PHOTO

To Italians, she sounds American. To Americans, she sounds Wisconsin. That’s fine by Rae Lin D’Alie, because now she’s an Olympian.

“Rae Rae” — only her mom calls her Rae Lin — is the 5-foot-3 point guard of the Italian 3-on-3 basketball team fully capable of surprising the favorites at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 33-year-old D’Alie is a bone fide star in the 3x3 world, earning MVP honors at the 2018 World Cup when Italy won gold by defeating the United States, China and Russia. Her late jumper against Hungary last month clinched Italy’s ticket to Tokyo.

Oh, she also wrote and recorded FIBA’s 3x3 anthem.

“I happen to be a dreamer so my mind is continuously thinking about what could be,” said D’Alie, pronounced “Duh-LEE-Ah.”

It becomes a reality for the Wisconsin native on Saturday when Italy opens its Olympic campaign against Mongolia. A few hours later they face heavyweight France before taking on other medal contenders like China, Japan, the United States and the Russian team in the following days.

The half-court 3x3 is an Olympic sport for the first time. Games are 10 minutes or first to 21, with scoring in ones and twos.

D’Alie is Italy’s spark plug, court general and unofficial spokeswoman — in two languages.

“I’m grateful to the Italian people because they’ve really embraced me, and my accent they get a kick out of. I’m not perfect grammatically. They like how I do the interviews,” D’Alie told The Associated Press a few days before departing Rome for Tokyo.

She had moved to Italy after being a four-year starter at Wisconsin from 2006-10 and gained citizenship. By chance, she discovered that her great-great-grandfather was from Salerno — where she had moved to — but she and her five siblings were well aware of their Italian roots while growing up about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

“We were the loud Italian family that was always together, eating pasta on Thursdays at grandma’s house, inviting the whole neighborhood over. Lots of sports, lots of energy,” she said.

That energy is key in the fast-paced chaos of 3x3.

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