Class of '23 Profile: Alana Beard
Beard’s dynamic impact at every level makes her elite figure in state hoops history
By JIMMY WATSON, Written for the LSWA
Once offered a live goat in appreciation of her basketball prowess, Alana Beard was a
generational athlete who won nearly every award imaginable for a women’s basketball player
during an incredible career that took her across the world.
A four-time LHSAA state champion at Shreveport’s Southwood High School, a John Wooden
Award winner at Duke and a WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks, Beard has been
emblematic of success at all levels.
Her accomplishments made her a no-doubt selection for induction in the Louisiana Sports Hall
of Fame’s Class of 2023. The Induction Celebration is July 27-29 in Natchitoches with
information and tickets available at LaSportsHall.com or by calling 318-238-4255.
Not long after she saw Beard play the first time in high school, former Duke coach Gail
Goestenkors knew she was watching someone special.
“Some players work hard, some are talented, and some have a special drive,” said Goestenkors.
“But Alana was the trifecta. She has the drive to be the best in whatever she’s doing. She had
the mind, the heart, and the soul of a basketball player.”
Beard, who played basketball in 27 countries, also had a special place in her soul for Krispy
Kreme doughnuts, according to former Duke teammate Vicki Krapohl-Pugsley.
“Once at the ACC tournament, she actually made herself sick from eating too many,” Krapohl-
Pugsley said. “She of course overcame it and played great. But if I was her opponent, I might
secretly leave her a dozen Krispy Kreme’s before a game.”
Beard led Southwood to a 144-6 record with 53 consecutive wins for former coach Steve
McDowell. She scored 48 points against Bonnabel in her final prep contest in the LHSAA Class
5A state championship game at UL Monroe’s Fant-Ewing Coliseum. But it was her defense that
was memorable for McDowell.
“Bonnabel had a great guard, Tameika Johnson, who signed with LSU. Alana got two charges on
her and had 20 rebounds,” McDowell said. “Alana didn’t miss much and set the championship
game scoring record, but defense and her competitiveness is what made her great.”
Beard’s current job is as a social entrepreneur where she aims to create a cultural shift in how
women and girls experience access and opportunity in education, business and sports.
In February, Beard founded and is president of the 318 Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit
organization designed to inspire positive outcomes for high school girls in underserved
“(Communities) like my hometown of Shreveport,” Beard said. “We were financially anchored
by Steve Miller and the Andre Agassi Foundation and recently received significant funding from
Kris Englestad and the Englestad Family Foundation.”
Beard is also co-founder and CEO of Transition Play, a talent firm that helps prepare female
athletes for life after the game by providing mentoring, career and skills coaching along with
connecting them with employment opportunities with the company’s partner companies.
On a national stage, Beard is adamantly pursuing her dream of owning an expansion WNBA
franchise. But she doesn’t miss her playing days.
“I was fortunate to do what many athletes don't get a chance to do,” she said. “I was craving
the transition to the business world and was ready for a new challenge. I walked away from the
game (2019), knowing that I gave it my all every time.”
Beard’s former Southwood teammate, Jenna (Thomas) Bolin, currently the girls’ basketball
coach at Haughton, said Beard’s attitude and work ethic set her apart from the normal athlete.
“Looking back now as a coach, she is exactly the kind of person you would want your best
player to be,” Bolin said. “So often these days the most talented are usually cocky or too cool or
not coachable. Alana was none of those things. She did the same thing to college point guards
that she did to high school point guards. She was our stopper.”
Goestenkors said one game summed up the greatness of Alana Beard. It came in a tournament
game on foreign soil against Iowa State. One of the Blue Devils had turned the ball over at a
critical point in the game. The Cyclones had a breakaway, but hadn’t accounted for Beard’s
“Alana tracked down the player, made an incredible block and saved the ball from going out of
bounds by tipping it to a teammate,” Goestenkors said. “Then she raced to the other end, took
a pass and hit a jumper. I’d never seen anything like it -- it was a thing of beauty.”
During an early season tournament in the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, the Blue Devils were
traveling on an open-air, safari-type bus.
“Alana was approached by a local as we were getting ready to go for a game and offered a
goat,” Krapohl-Pugsley said. “She smiled and respectfully declined, but I have to say it was
definitely a first for us on a bus trip to a game.”
When she arrived at Duke, Beard did not know how to swim, but she didn’t let that stop her
when the Blue Devils visited the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia during a
tournament trip. The rest of her team decided to snorkel on the reef.
“Alana put on floaties, flippers, goggles and every floating thing imaginable so she could
participate,” Goestenkors said. “She wasn’t going to let the fear of being unable to swim keep
her from doing something great.”
Beard has since not only learned to swim, she has returned to her hometown several times to
teach swimming to children at the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana.
It didn’t take long after her arrival as a freshman at Duke for Beard to become homesick for her
mother’s cooking. There were thoughts about transferring to a school closer to home, but the
Duke coaches and players rallied around the introverted Beard.
“Alana was very quiet. All she did was practice and study. Most of those early days there were
tears,” Goestenkors said. “Her teammates were trying to get her to do some things to have fun.
It definitely took some time for her to adjust.”
But adjust she did. She led the Blue Devils to two NCAA Women’s Final Fours while becoming
the first NCAA basketball player to accumulate more than 2,600 points, 500 assists and 400
steals. Although Duke didn’t win a national title under her leadership, the Blue Devils won four
ACC regular season and tournament championships.
“I watched her grow from a young woman who was very homesick and struggling in her new
environment into becoming a leader and role model of the team,” Krapohl-Pugsley said.
All of the student-athletes who competed with Beard were smart and talented in their own
right, including Dr. Georgia (Schweitzer) Beasley, currently associate professor of surgery and
medicine and co-director of Duke’s melanoma program. She said Beard was “simply
spectacular” the day she stepped on the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the most
storied basketball arenas in the country.
“AB played with tremendous passion and skill while remaining humble and in pursuit of
improvement,” Beasley said. “I knew right away that she was a generational player, someone
that you might consider yourself lucky to see play if you are alive during the right era. Better
than that, I got to play with her! To me, she will always be the best player to ever play in
Cameron Indoor Stadium.”
Former Southwood teammate Krystal Jackson called Beard a “dynamic person” with basketball
giving her an avenue to expose her personality to the world.
“AB is genuine, thoughtful, driven, family focused, goofy, funny, easy-going and that is just a
small fraction of who I’ve grown to know over the years,” Jackson said. “She is very loyal, and I
treasure our friendship. When she came in her freshman year she came in a with a fire and
determination to get better daily and in any way possible, help make her teammates and the
team as a whole the best that we could be. Very selfless. I am ecstatic about all she has
achieved and all that is in store for her to accomplish.”
In addition to the 2004 Wooden Award, Beard was recognized with the State Farm Wade
Trophy along with the Associated Press and Naismith National Player of the Year awards.
She was drafted No. 2 by the Washington Mystics in the 2004 WNBA Draft and became an All-
Star during her second season. She was twice awarded the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year
award, and during the Sparks’ 2016 championship run, Beard made a last second jumper to give
her team a 1-0 lead in the championship series with the Minnesota Lynx.
During her off-season with the WNBA, Beard played in South Korea, Spain and two different
seasons in Israel and Poland. During her last trip to Poland, Beard suffered a severe eye injury
during a game that nearly ended her career. She went through several weeks of hospitalization
in Poland because the injury kept her from flying back to the U.S. She eventually healed, but
decided to forego playing overseas after that.
Beard had been on the fence about taking the overseas gig, because her extensive 22-year
career at that point from her Southwood freshman season had taken a tremendous toll on her
body before the injury.
“I was just going to chill out and enjoy my offseason, but I ended up getting a nice deal that I
couldn’t turn down,” Beard said. “I ended up being there for eight days and then it was over, so
that was validation that I was done for the rest of my career playing overseas.”
Bolin said Beard’s demeanor at Southwood was an extension of McDowell, an LHSAA Hall of
“It was no nonsense -- more competitive than anyone else -- nothing flashy (except all those
championship rings!!!),” Bolin said. “She was the best there ever was and will ever be.”