September 2, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: Scouting Alana Beard, the greatest perimeter defender in WNBA history

'She's able to make these impact plays in spaces where you don't really see it coming'

Our WNBA Retrospect series continues at Locked on Women’s Basketball! The series reviews game film, stats, news articles and more to determine who has been the best prospect in the history of the WNBA. Last week, Em Adler and Lincoln Shafer discussed Diana Taurasi, the 2004 No. 1 overall pick. This week, Hunter Cruse joins Em and Lincoln to talk about the pick right after Taurasi, Duke wing Alana Beard.

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As a college senior, Beard averaged 19.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. She won the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy, both of which honor the national player of the year, and was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team for the fourth time in her career.

Here’s Em on what stood out from watching Beard as a college player:

“What stood out to me … is just how many different ways she affected the game: in terms of her defense, being able to be both an elite individual defender and occasionally being able to suss out and help her teammates; in terms of, obviously, she averaged basically 20 points a game for her career at Duke. And [she] just [had] a nose to get the line, sought out contact, and was really clutch just coming up and scoring more … the later the game got.”

Lincoln further explains what made Beard such an impactful defender in college:

“The first thing that caught my eye with Alana Beard’s tape in college is the closing speed, the recovery speed. … She’s covering so much ground with so few strides and her arms are long enough that she’s able to make these impact plays in spaces where you don’t really see it coming.

“There’s one play that’s coming to mind, I think from [a 2004 Elite Eight game against Minnesota], where she is part of a hedge on a pick-and-roll and then within three seconds is contesting a layup. And it’s just incredible to watch her eat up space like that. Her combination of length and strength and athleticism is really special for a guard prospect.”

Beard was drafted by the Washington Mystics and played six seasons there before spending eight years with the Los Angeles Sparks. She won a WNBA championship in 2016, was named an All-Star four times and won two WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. In 420 career regular-season games, she averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals.


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