Ballin’ and Bio: The Adventures of Allie Best

Summer is a time for many college students to earn as much money as they possibly can in what seems like a fast four months before classes resume again in the fall. However, many students don’t have those four months. 

Generally speaking, student-athletes get one month of summer. The school year for them ends in late-May with the conclusion of graduation, and they get until the end of June to enjoy a break. 

College basketball players, however, are instructed to report back to their respective colleges and universities at the end of June for summer and pre-season workouts. 

Since basketball season doesn’t start until the end of the fall semester, pre-season begins at the end of September and lasts for about one month, and first games of regular season play usually take place between the first and second weekends of November. Regular season competition lasts until early-to-mid March, when post-season play begins, if the school becomes eligible during the regular season. 

It is uncommon for any student-athlete to have the chance to study abroad, and with basketball players having this almost year-long schedule, the chances they have to go abroad are slim-to-none. 

But it’s not impossible. Remember that one-month window from May-June? 

Marist College junior guard Allie Best jumped at the opportunity to study abroad when it was presented to her. 

Best is a biology major and one of her minors is environmental science. Over this past summer, she was living on a boat for three weeks in the Caribbean, where she studied marine biology, her childhood dream. 

“I went on an abroad trip through a program called Broadreach. It was a trip studying marine biology.” said Best. “I spent three weeks on a catamaran and we sailed between the [Caribbean] islands.” 

Best came into college wanting to specifically study marine biology, but Marist doesn’t offer that specific program, so she opted to major in the broader biology. 

“The basketball team and coaching staff drew me here to Marist,” said Best, “and the school also has a great science program, academically. With [the department] being so strong,” said Best, “I thought that majoring in a broader biology would be very helpful down the road.” 

She thought right. 

During the Fall 2018 semester, Best approached her coaches to let them know about the opportunity. 

“I thought it was a great idea and that it would benefit her and her future,” said Marist women’s basketball associate head coach Erin Doughty. 

After Best mentioned the opportunity to the rest of her coaches, they all had the same reaction: She had to go. According to Doughty, even though the coaches have summer access to their athletes, they still want them to have similar experiences over their summers that other students have. She also said that head coach Brian Giorgis prioritizes academics over everything. 

“Summer is a great time for our athletes to take advantage of opportunities other students have,” said Doughty, “whether it be internships or having an abroad experience like Allie had.” 

Doughty also mentioned Best’s concerns after the team gave her the green light to go. Best was worried about how she would keep up with her workouts and drills while she was away. 

“She’s a perfectionist in the classroom and on the court,” said Doughty. “She was most concerned with keeping up with basketball while living on a boat.” 

Her teammates were behind her. “They were like, ‘Stop it. You’re going to be fine,’” said Doughty. “‘You can do push-ups on the deck or bring a basketball and do some ball-handling.’ We also said that since she would be swimming, that would be her conditioning.” 

Best’s teammates were the ones most eager for her to return. According to Doughty, they were really interested in seeing all of her pictures and videos, and hearing all about her experience. 

Best ultimately made the decision because she wanted to make sure she knew what she wanted to do after she graduates from Marist in 2021. She always knew she wanted to be a marine biologist, but never had the opportunity to explore the field. 

“A typical day began with us getting up really early to dive, especially in the beginning, because none of us were certified yet,” said Best. “Then we would have our three-hour long lecture where we would study, but it would be more hands-on material because everything was readily available to us.” 

It wasn’t all about learning though. While away, Best learned how to scuba dive and actually received her scuba certification while studying. 

“It’s been one of my dreams since I was little,” said Best. “So that was definitely a dream come true.” 

Best also experienced Caribbean marine life with seven other students and three instructors: the diving instructor, the marine biology professor, and the boat captain. One of the students was an international student from Canada, and the other six were from different schools across the country, including New York University and Stony Brook University. 

“It was cool getting to know other people from different areas,” said Best. “It was a different way to make new friends, especially while being in such tight quarters.” 

Best has always been determined and passionate when it came to balancing her academic interests and her commitment to basketball. 

Doughty credited Best’s drive to her focus and her attention to detail, in reference to her studies and her sport. She explained that Best always has a plan for everything, and has known what she has wanted to do for a long time. 

“She did a very good job at molding her academic career to give her the greatest opportunity in her desired field,” said Doughty. “That doesn’t always happen with college students right away.” 

Best wouldn’t trade her opportunity for anything. She gained valuable experience in one of the most diverse areas of marine life in the world, and is excited for her post-graduate and post-basketball future. 

“It’s definitely the career I want to pursue after college. It opened my perspective on everything in my life,” said Best. “It was really cool to get outside my comfort zone and just see other things besides basketball. Basketball is my life here, and I love it, but it’s not going to be like that forever, so it was cool for me to see things that I will be able to do afterwards.” 

Edited by Kourtney Kowalski

Header Photo Courtesy of Mike Cahill

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