Beard is only the second three-time member
The third time is the most satisfying for Alana Beard.
The Duke senior with a smooth jumper and moves to match became just the second three-time member of The Associated Press women's college basketball All-America team Tuesday.
She was a unanimous selection on a squad that also features Connecticut's Diana Taurasi, Penn State's Kelly Mazzante, Stanford's Nicole Powell, and Kansas State's Nicole Ohlde.
The only other player with a trio of first-team selections was Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw in 1997-99. The AP has been picking a women's All-America team since 1995.
"Anytime you're associated with the name Chamique Holdsclaw, it's always an honor," Beard said. "And to be a first-team All-American, when there are so many good players out there, and then to do it three times -- it's definitely a blessing."
Beard was a first-team choice on all 47 ballots from the national media panel that votes on the weekly Top 25, receiving the maximum 235 points. Each voter picked three teams, and players received points on a 5-3-1 basis.
Taurasi had 45 first-team votes and 231 points, Mazzante had 36 and 207, while Powell had 25 and 183. Ohlde received 24 first-team votes and 172 points.
The five first-teamers, all seniors, were on the preseason All-America team in November. Taurasi, Ohlde and Mazzante were on the first team with Beard at the end of last season, while Powell was a second-team pick. In 2002, Beard made the first team; Powell, Taurasi and Mazzante were on the second team, and Ohlde received honorable mention. Beard received honorable mention as freshman in 2001.
With Beard leading the way, Duke went to the Final Four each of the past two seasons. This season, the Blue Devils finished No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time.
Beard averaged 20.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals, while shooting 51 percent from the field.
"Alana has taken her game to another level this year, which I didn't know existed," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "The great thing is Alana has taken the team along with her, and she has let each of her teammates know how important they are for this team to reach their ultimate goal of a national championship.
"She has been the greatest leader we have ever had."
Taurasi, the national player of the year last season, has been entertaining as well as skillful in her four years at UConn, delighting fans with no-look passes, fearless shooting and a brashness that matches her coach, Geno Auriemma. She has been a winner, too, helping the Huskies claim the last two national titles.
Taurasi led UConn this season in scoring (15.5), assists (4.9), 3-pointers (68) and steals (50). Taurasi recalled that when Auriemma recruited her, he told her she had a chance to become a great player.
"Ninety-nine percent of the things I wanted to do I've accomplished," she said. "And that starts with him, and him kind of putting it my head early and saying, 'If you really work hard and really want it, you can get to that level.'"
Mazzante averaged 20.8 points this season and broke the Big Ten's career scoring record. She helped Penn State earn a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament.
"It's been an incredible honor to coach her," Penn State's Rene Portland said. "Not just because she's a great player, but because she's an incredible team person. The accolades she's received are rightfully deserved. She's taken Penn State to a whole new national level."
At 6-foot-5, Ohlde is as mobile as a small forward and often outruns defenders in the open court. She led a resurgence in women's basketball at Kansas State, became the Big 12's career scoring leader and averaged 17 points while shooting 57 percent this season.
"It's definitely a tribute to the teammates that I have and all the things they do for me," Ohlde said. "And a tribute to our coaches, who are constantly in the gym trying to help us all get better."
Kansas State was the only school with two players honored Tuesday; Kendra Wecker was a third-team pick.
Powell has been called on to play everywhere at Stanford, from the point to the post, and handled each as if it were her natural position. She led the Cardinal this season in scoring (20.0), rebounding (11.1), assists (3.8) and steals (52).
"She has had a great season," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "She's probably the most versatile player I've ever coached."
The second-team picks were Chandi Jones of Houston, Shereka Wright of Purdue, Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota, Stacy Stephens of Texas, and Vanessa Hayden of Florida.
Joining Wecker on the third team were Seimone Augustus of LSU, Shameka Christon of Arkansas, Shyra Ely of Tennessee, and Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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