Beard on top of voting for All-America team

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Her team is No. 1, and so is Alana Beard.

The Duke junior was the only player on all 44 ballots Tuesday for The Associated Press preseason All-America team in women's basketball.

In addition to the 5-foot-11 Beard, the national media panel selected Vanderbilt's Chantelle Anderson (42 votes), Connecticut's Diana Taurasi (41), Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas (35), and Stanford's Nicole Powell (24).

''It is an honor to be considered one of the best in the country,'' Beard said. ''It is very exciting, but I have other focuses right now and that is on our team. We are working to get better and trying to teach our freshmen the system.''

Duke was ranked No. 1 for the first time Monday in the AP's preseason poll.

Beard, Anderson and Thomas made the preseason team last year and were first-team All-Americans at the end of the season. Powell and Taurasi were second-team picks.

Beard can post up, spot up and slash to the basket. She averaged 19.8 points and 6.1 rebounds last season in leading Duke to a 31-4 record and its second Final Four appearance.

She shot 57.2 percent from the field, and her 694 points were a school record.

Beard got few breaks last season because Duke had only eight players. She spent the offseason hitting the weights to get stronger.

''She took a beating last year,'' Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. ''We knew she had to get stronger and be able to finish with contact. We didn't want her to be quite so fatigued at the end of the game. That has been her biggest improvement.''

Few players can post up as well Anderson, a 6-6 senior. She shot 72.3 percent as a sophomore and 64.7 percent last season, when she averaged 20.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in leading the Commodores to the final eight in the NCAA tournament.

''It is such a great honor to be placed on a team that is considered the five best players in the country,'' Anderson said. ''Hopefully I can live up to the billing and also help lead my team to the Final Four.''

Taurasi, a 6-foot junior, has dazzled UConn fans -- and aggravated coach Geno Auriemma at times -- with her no-look passes, fearless drives to the basket and long-range shooting.

She played with four seniors on Connecticut's unbeaten national championship team last season, averaging 14.9 points and 5.3 assists. Now she's the leader as the Huskies reload.

''This really is a great honor to be awarded, especially considering the amount of talent out there this year,'' Taurasi said. ''I just hope to play to the best of my ability day in and day out, and hopefully good things will come for our team.''

Thomas, a 6-2 senior expected to be a high choice in the WNBA draft next spring, led the Southeastern Conference in scoring in each of her first three college seasons.

She was second in the nation with a 24.6-point average last season and already owns Mississippi State's career scoring record (2,187). She averaged 9.9 rebounds and shot 57 percent in 2001-02.

The 6-2 Powell, a junior, has played everything from point guard to power forward. She has six of the eight triple-doubles in Stanford history and last season averaged 16.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

A back problem has kept Powell from participating in full-scale workouts, but she is expected to start playing soon.

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