Five aces

Updated: November 23, 2003, 1:20 AM ET
ESPN.com

This one caused a ruckus.

Unlike last season when ESPN.com's columnists had a fairly easy time agreeing on the nation's top five players, there was a bit more debate this time around (especially when it came to a certain high-scoring Lady Lion from the Big Ten, who was just edged out by another Big Ten stud). Well, actually, a lot more.

While we all agreed that Alana Beard and Diana Taurasi should be repeat selections on ESPN.com's fourth-annual preseason All-America team, nine other players were considered for the final three spots. And Nancy Lieberman is probably still shaking her head about our decision to omit that Lady Lion.

A look at our final picks for the best five players (listed alphabetically, with last season's stats; Beard is a three-time honoree; Taurasi and Stanford's Nicole Powell were selected for the second consecutive season).

PARTY OF FIVE
Alana Beard
Only Jay Williams has scored as many points at Duke.
Alana Beard, Duke
Senior, G/F, 5-11, Shreveport, La. (Southwood)

2003 Kodak All-American, unanimous AP first team All-American, ESPN.com national player of year, NCAA Midwest Regional MVP; just second player in men's and women's school history to top 2,000 points; owns Duke single-season points record (813); 13 career double-doubles; scored at least 20 points in 49 games.

"Best defender in nation by far." -- Nancy Lieberman
"Fearsome on-ball defender, great penetrator and wants so badly to win." -- Mechelle Voepel


G MIN FG REB AST PTS
37 31.4 52.76.9 3.022.0
Nicole Ohlde
Ohlde has scored 1,699 points for the Wildcats.
Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State
Senior, C, 6-5, Clay Center, Kan. (Clay Center)

2003 AP first-team All-American, Big 12 player of year; only Wildcat to tally 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 blocks in a career; 33 career double-doubles, including 15 as a junior; scored at least 20 points in 36 games; K-State's all-time shot block leader (151) and eight points shy of career scoring mark.

"Great post who also has a Magic Johnson-like skill of delivering the ball." -- Nancy Lieberman
"Variety of moves, really strong post passer and, wow, can this big girl handle the ball." -- Mechelle Voepel


G MIN FG REB AST PTS
3434.5 46.68.3 3.719.0
Nicole Powell
Powell owns six of the Pac-10's 12 triple-doubles.
Nicole Powell, Stanford
Senior, F, 6-2, Phoenix, Ariz. (Mountain Pointe)

2003 Kodak All-American, AP second-team All-American; first in Stanford history in career rebounds per game (9.1), third in points (16.3), sixth in total assists (450), eighth in 3-pointers (143); six triple-doubles and 30 double-doubles in in 88 games.

"Will be one of the top three picks in April's WNBA draft." -- Nancy Lieberman
"Great instincts and has carried such a big load for Stanford. Most underrated talent is her rebounding." -- Mechelle Voepel


G MIN FG REB AST PTS
2330.9 48.19.3 3.818.8
Diana Taurasi
Taurasi could break Nykesha Sales' career scoring mark.
Diana Taurasi, Connecticut
Senior, G/F, 6-0, Chino, Calif. (Don Lugo)

2003 Wade Trophy winner, Naismith player of year, Kodak All-American, Final Four MOP; 54 points at Final Four fourth-highest total in history; averaged 26.2 points in '03 NCAA Tournament, including career-high 35 in second round; 590 points short of tying all-time UConn scoring record.

"There is no better go-to player in the world. Pro players are envious of her confidence." -- Nancy Lieberman
"Can do everything on the court and brings everybody else along with her." -- Mechelle Voepel


G MIN FG REB AST PTS
3731.9 47.66.13.117.9
Lindsay Whalen
Whalen has scored 1,731 career points at Minnesota.
Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota
Senior, G, 5-0, Hutchinson, Minn. (Hutchinson)

2003 Kodak All-American, AP second-team All-American; only Naismith finalist last season to rank among nation's top 20 in scoring and assists; needs 366 points to tie school career scoring record (2,097); scored in double figures in 82 of 86 games; scored at least 25 points in 23 games, 30 points in eight games.

"Can get her shot off on anyone, anytime." -- Nancy Lieberman
"A creative player and dynamic scorer who can make quick adjustments." -- Mechelle Voepel


G MIN FG REB AST PTS
3132.954.65.0 6.220.6

Honorable mention: Kelly Mazzante, Penn State; Seimone Augustus, LSU; Chandi Jones, Houston; Kendra Wecker, Kansas State

ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman, ESPN.com columnist Mechelle Voepel and Melanie Jackson, who coordinates ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage, contributed to the selection process.

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