Wellesley Athlete of the Week is made possible with sponsorship support from Deland, Gibson Insurance. The family-owned and operated business has carried on this Wellesley tradition for over 30 years.
Favorite Game Day Tradition: Playing “I Just Wanna Rock” before games
Ultimate Goal: Leave a lasting impact on all players
Best Part of Basketball: We are not a team, but rather a family
The Wellesley girls’ basketball team is having a fantastic year. The team is on an 8-1 winning streak, which included a recent 13-point victory over Needham. Through this stretch, no player has been more valuable to the Raiders than senior captain Alli Jones. Jones has provided the Raiders with consistent offense, lockdown defense, and has boosted the team’s morale.
After a 3-17 season in 2021-2022, where the team missed the playoffs, the future was murky. A complete overhaul of the Raiders’ coaching staff occurred during the offseason. Athletic Director Brown recruited coaches Jenn Berkowitz and Steve Balter to restore a winning culture.
Balter has coached the Wellesley’s girls’ varsity lacrosse team since 2018, and led the Raiders to a state title in 2019. He has established a powerhouse program built on team chemistry. Coach Berkowitz has been around basketball her whole life. She played Division 1 basketball at Yale, where she scored over 1,000 points and was named to the All-Ivy First Team and the All-Ivy Academic Team her senior year. She also received the Nellie Pratt Elliot award for the female senior athlete who embodies exemplary sportsmanship at Yale. Balter and Berkowitz are the perfect complements for each other.
They decided to try coaching together this year after meeting through a mutual friend. They bonded over shared principles about team leadership and the importance of a close-knit team. Having been around competitive sports for a long time, Balter and Berkowitz can spot a great leader, and they named Kate Morrow and Alli Jones as their captains based on those attributes. They selected Jones as Athlete of the Week, describing her as “the core to our team,” and “one of the best human beings that we have ever met.”
By preaching team play, tenacious defense, and a never-say-die attitude, Balter and Berkowitz got the Raiders ready for the season. Although the team started slow at 0-5, the Raiders have dominated for the last month and a half improving to an 8-6 record and being ranked 19th in Division 1 in Massachusetts.
As the back end of the season approaches, and the Raiders start to prepare for the playoffs, Jones is “determined to end the season on a high note, and make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Jones has been around basketball all of her life. As the youngest of 4, she described her childhood as “growing up in the WHS gym watching my siblings play basketball.” She started playing as soon as she could pick up and dribble a ball.
Jones started organized basketball through the Mini-Raiders weekend skills training and continued through the Metrowest (Wellesley travel team) program, the Middle School basketball team, and up to high school. Her extensive background in basketball is reflected through her play and game IQ.
The coaches were fascinated to see how Jones, as a senior captain, would lead this young and inexperienced team. As they hoped, Jones galvanized everybody by focusing on camaraderie, chemistry, and inclusiveness. She made it her mission to make everyone feel comfortable because she felt “as if it was the key for us to unlock our potential as a team.”
Coach Balter recalled one of his favorite moments of the year involving Jones. He was helping her put together a highlight tape for colleges, and he wanted to include Jones on the bench for the last video. This was not her sitting watching the game, but instead “jumping through the roof for her teammates during a 20-point blowout victory.” Balter felt as if this perfectly encapsulated who she was as a leader on the team. “She can dominate during the game, but it’s never about her. When she is on the bench she is all in for her teammates, not focusing on how she played. Seeing her go crazy for her teammates is a rarity I have seen in so few girls, and she does it all the time.”
Not only is Jones a fantastic leader, but she is also a force on the court. Her offensive skill set has allowed her to rack up points and rebounds, averaging about 9 points per game and 8 rebounds. She has also played tenacious defense for the Raiders, averaging 2 steals and 1 block per game. Jones’s consistent contribution to the surging Raiders has cemented her as a dominant player in the conference.
Jone’s skills were on display during the Raiders’ 5th game of the season when they faced the Framingham Flyers, a Top 10 program. One of the Raiders’ starting post players went out with an ankle injury early in the game. Jones anchored the inside game for the Raiders. Even though they lost a close game, Balter couldn’t have been more impressed with the way Jones played saying, “Alli battled the whole night without the help of her partner in crime, Tara Battaglino. She didn’t back down from the challenge but instead almost carried us to victory with a dominant performance of 16 points and 15 rebounds. She also guarded a girl who is committed to play Division 1 basketball next year.”
The Framingham contest was one of many strong outings for Jones. Against another Top 10 program, Weymouth, Jones again had a double-double. She scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had 2 blocks and a steal in the Raiders’ victory.
“Alli is easily one of, if not the best, centers in this league,” Berkowitz says. “She is a perfect role model for the team, and also a baller on the court. She can take over games whenever she wants and however she wants if it’s through scoring, defense, and/or rebounding.”
Thanks to Jones, the Raiders have a chance to clinch a postseason berth for the first time in 3 years. She’s amped for the playoffs to start with a chance for her to “end my career on a high note, a state championship.”
Article written by John Battaglino, Bradford ‘24