Allie LaForce was Miss Teen USA in 2005, but any notion players and coaches might have that she is just another pretty face as a sideline reporter quickly are dispelled when she starts talking basketball.
She played the game at the Division I level as a reserve at Ohio University during her freshman and sophomore years before transitioning into a media role as a junior.
“There are a lot of sideline reporters who haven’t played the game who do an incredible job,’’ said LaForce, who will be the courtside reporter for the NCAA East Regional at the Garden. “But I think it makes a world of difference, for several reasons.
“Number one, you know how to watch the game in a different way. Instead of looking and saying Shabazz Napier had 28 points, you look at the X factor, the player that maybe was averaging seven points coming in, and he came in and had 11 offensive rebounds and you know the difference that makes in the game.
“Or you can watch a play and break it down or you know to say, ‘Hey, coach, at halftime I saw your three-quarter-court press added a little bit of aggression to it. What changes did you make in the huddle?’ You just notice small things. It’s not like sideline reporters who didn’t play can’t notice these things. But without having to know that was the coach’s plan I can see all of that happening. And that’s because I played.
“I also know how to approach different personalities. I was coached by two different coaching staffs with drastically different approaches and styles, mentalities. I know the difference that can make. You just have an eye for some things.’’
LaForce might have been a more highly recruited college player, but she missed chunks of her junior season in high school because of travel associated with her Miss Teen USA title.
So she joined the Bobcats as a preferred walk-on and got into a handful of games as a freshman on a strong Ohio U team.
LaForce said she does not hesitate to let college coaches know of her background in the game.
“Without a doubt,’’ she said. “CBS encourages me, not to shove that down their throat, but to let it be known. And coaches do appreciate it more and do take me more seriously when they know that. They talk a whole different way to me about strategy and they talk terminology with me.’’
LaForce noted that many former women’s players are assigned to cover women’s basketball. ESPN’s Doris Burke, who played at Providence, has done it all as a reporter and analyst, including for men’s games.
“Oh my gosh, she’s incredible,’’ LaForce said, “probably the one person I look up to most.’’