Q&A with Mystics star Alana Beard

Mystics guard Alana Beard averaged a career-high 19.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists a game in 2006.
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Mystics All-Star Alana Beard played overseas in Israel this offseason and also spent time with the U.S. National Team during the squad's trip to Italy. And though Beard is currently nursing a shoulder injury, she has high hopes that her Mystics will improve upon their 2006 playoff run in the coming season. She spoke from Italy with WNBA.com on her hoops history, her late-night training habits and her plans for 2007 and beyond.

Q. The Washington Mystics are no longer an inexperienced team without any expectations. As a team of young veterans, is now your time to take the leap?
A.
"I would think so. I've been there for three years. I've made the playoffs in two of the past three years I've been with the Mystics. This is our year. We didn't make many changes. A lot of other teams made changes, but I'm a believer that the teams that stay together the longest are the teams that win championships. Hopefully we can win a title this year, but if not this year, then next year. We are building towards that."

Q. How much have you grown as a person and as a player?
A.
"I accept each day as it comes. My rookie year, I was always looking ahead, wanting to know what the next step was. But now I take every day as it comes and have fun each day. I was too overwhelmed with the game of basketball and too much into it. I've learned how to balance and have a life outside of basketball, but to go as hard as I can when I'm on the court. The one thing I'd say is that it's not how long you stay in the gym, but how much you do when you're in the gym."

Q. Yet you are known to be in the gym at all hours of the night. Ever see (Wizards All-Star) Gilbert Arenas early in the morning or late at night in the gym?
A.
"There have been times when Gilbert and I have bumped into each other because we are both there early. I came in at 10 or 11 at night. I leave, and he's coming in for the night."

Q. When did you first start playing organized basketball?
A.
"At the age of 12."

Q. And did you ever picture yourself where you're at?
A.
"I often pictured myself here, and that is why I am here. Every time that image came into my mind, it made me work harder. It might not have been there at 12, but I learned it and learned how to be motivated. A lot of that comes from my parents, who instilled a good work ethic in me. Never quit and go for things you want. I want to be a great basketball player, but I'm not there yet. I'm working at it."

"Hopefully we can win a title this year," says Beard, "but if not this year, then next year. We are building towards that."
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Q. Where do you think you'd be without basketball right now?
A.
"I don't know where I'd be. I truly believe you are blessed with a talent. Basketball is my talent. For others, being a doctor or lawyer is their talent. So maybe I would have been blessed with something else. I don't know what that would be."

Q. In the geographic mosaic of basketball, what do players from Louisiana bring to the sport?
A.
"If you look at players like Seimone Augustus and myself, we have been described as smooth and players who have finesse in their game. Finesse in everything: shooting, the way we move on the court, the way we take it to the hole. It's a smooth (sort of) finesse."

Q. As a perennial All-Star and budding superstar, how do you get respect in the WNBA and who, in turn, do you respect?
A.
"It all shows on the court. If you handle yourself in a classy way, go out every day and give 100%, you will get the respect from teammates and peers. Who do I respect in this game? The players who paved the way for us, the pioneers. They weren't here when the WNBA was here, but they created the game for us."

Q. It sounds like the game and life has slowed down a bit for you. Is that true?
A.
"Yeah, it is. I take life for what it is now and have learned how to enjoy it. When I came out of college, I was so regimented and tried to bring that … to the WNBA. I figured out quickly that it didn't work. In college, there was the schoolwork and the basketball to stay occupied. As a professional, all you have is basketball. If you want to spend your entire day playing basketball, I don't think you'd get much out of life."

Q. Remember when you wanted to be on the cover of Fortune when you were at Duke?
A.
"Yeah, when I was at Duke, they asked me what was one thing I wanted to accomplish in life and I said that I wanted to be on the cover of the Fortune 500 (issue) and be the second wealthiest African-American woman behind Oprah Winfrey."

Q. Is that still a goal?
A.
"It is still a goal. I'm working toward that every day. It's a matter of making the right investments and managing your money. You have to get the right people to show you the right things to do."

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