Beard Still Has Unfinished Business at Duke
March 5, 2004
By Harrison Rand
Alana Beard has scored more points than any basketball player in the history of Duke University, men included.
She was named one of the ACC's Top 10 Female Athletes of All-Time last year. She was the only person on that list that was still in school -- and she was only a junior.
She's also the first woman ever to have her jersey retired at Duke. But Beard's work remains unfinished.
"So many great players have come to Duke as far as the men, and they all have a national championship under their belts," Beard said in a recent interview with the ACC. "So I wouldn't dare rank myself up there with them because they have a national championship and I don't. Hopefully that will come at the end."
The 21-year-old, Shreveport, La., native has led the Blue Devils to three ACC Tournament titles and two Final Fours in her first three seasons. And she's hoping to add to each of those numbers in the coming weeks.
The top-seeded Blue Devils will take on ninth-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament, which will be a warm-up for the NCAA tourney. The best part is that Duke may be coming off its best performance of the season, a 90-57 victory at NC State.
Everything seems to be falling into place for the National Player of the Year candidate, but Beard didn't exactly get off to a smooth start in Durham.
"When I went home for Fall Break (my freshman year), it was so hard for me to get back on that plane," Beard said. "My mom had to drag me and push me on the plane. It was an experience that you have to go through in order to grow, and I don't regret it at all. I was fifteen hours away from home."
Beard's growing pains eventually subsided, but it took some time.
"When she first came to Duke she was very, very shy -- painfully shy," said Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors of her star player. "She did not go out and socialize at all. She came to practice, she worked hard, she went to class, and she studied, and that was her life."
She just enjoys being Alana Beard.
"She's always got the team going to the movies or having a barbecue," said Goestenkors. "To see interviews to see how articulate she is and how well thought-out she is, that's the greatest gift for me -- is to see how much she's grown in so many ways."
Of course, her coach also enjoys sitting back and watching her play.
Goestenkors, who was named ACC Coach of the Year for the third straight year, called it a privilege to coach a player of Beard's talent. She doesn't want to think about next season when Beard's smiling face won't be at practice. She has a nack for keeping her teammates and her coaching staff upbeat and positive through the rigors of a grueling season.
"Anyone that watches her play can see her passion," Goestenkors added. "They can see that not only is she the most talented player on the floor, she's also the hardest-working player on the floor. That doesn't happen very often."
The other eight ACC coaches know it all too well.
"The fact that she can take over a game, whether it's defensively, whether it's rebounding, whether it's passing the ball or shooting the ball, she can just take over a game," said Wake Forest head coach Charlene Curtis. "Just watching her in her senior year, you would think, 'Can she get any better?' Well, she's gotten better. She's a better player today than she was a year ago."
How much room there is to improve is yet to be seen, but her athleticism and desire will serve Beard well in the WNBA. But before she goes pro, let's enjoy watching one last run through the ACC Tournament. Let's sit back and see how far she can carry her team in the NCAA Tournament one more time.
Regardless of the outcome, she'll leave an indelible mark at Duke, and she's all the better for it.
"She's obviously a great player, and enough is said about that," said friend and teammate Icis Tillis. "We all know what she can do on the court, but off the court, she's a great friend ... She's really honest, sweet and down-to-earth, and she'll do anything for you. I know that we'll be friends long after our careers are over here."