- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2004

Judging by her performance in yesterday’s controlled scrimmage against the Charlotte Sting, prize rookie Alana Beard of the Washington Mystics could become the nation’s capital’s latest sports star.

Beard, selected by the Mystics with the second pick in last month’s WNBA Draft, clearly was the best player on the floor. Despite being less than 100 percent because of a sore groin, the 5-foot-11 Beard justified her lofty draft status.

One play in particular stood out. Tammy Sutton-Brown, the Sting’s 6-4 All-Star center, received a nice entry pass from the left wing courtesy of rookie Nicole Powell. As Sutton-Brown was going up for a layup, Beard came from the weak side to block the shot. Beard smacked away Sutton-Brown’s shot, sent the Sting’s center crashing to the floor and glared at her as if to say, “Get up.”

“A lot of people may underestimate my size, but I have a 6-4 wingspan, and they forget about that,” Beard said.

Some 500 spectators at MCI Center had good reason to come away impressed. Beard led all scorers with 12 points on four of eight shooting and had the fans chanting her name.

“We’ve gotten significantly better in the offseason,” Mystics player personnel consultant Pat Summitt told fans immediately following yesterday’s three 10-minute sessions. “Like what you see? Alana’s been hurt, [but] I guess you healed her by coming in here and watching her play. From an organizational standpoint, everything is in place.”

Beard outplayed Powell in this scrimmage. The Mystics could have chosen Powell but drafted Beard instead. Powell went to the Sting as the third pick.

“Nicole Powell can play and Alana Beard had the home crowd behind her today and she got her juices flowing,” first-year Mystics coach Michael Adams said. “This is her first extended playing time in about four or five days. I wanted to hold her back and not put her out there, but I figured the Mystics’ fans are the best and they wanted to see her, and I did not want to disappoint them.”

Actually, it was a pretty good dress rehearsal for Tuesday night when the Mystics play host to the Indiana Fever, led by superstar Tamika Catchings, in the first of two preseason games. Charlotte coach Trudi Lacey played the 6-2 Powell at virtually every position except center, and she finished with seven points on three of five shooting with five rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks.

Chamique Holdsclaw, the Mystics’ franchise player, was this scrimmage’s only other double-figure scorer with 11 points. Rookie 6-3 center Kaayla Chones, daughter of former NBA standout Jim Chones, played well for Washington with five points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. Chones, who is being asked to add post depth this season, held her own against Sutton-Brown, one of the Eastern Conference’s better centers.

Even though Washington won the scrimmage 48-45, work is still needed on the running game and halfcourt offense. The Mystics were unable to rev up the transition game behind point guard Tamicha Jackson. And there was some confusion with halfcourt sets. Yet coming off a 9-25 season, the scrimmage was a positive first step.

“Like I told my teammates, I’ve led this league in scoring before. I’ve led the league in rebounding. I won an Olympic gold medal. Now I want some WNBA championships,” Holdsclaw said. “And like I told Alana today, ‘You’re going to get me that.’”

Notes — Guards Stacey Dales-Schuman (groin) and Annie Burgess (foot) missed the scrimmage. … Center Chasity Melvin and guard Jocelyn Penn are playing overseas. … One day after waiving five players, the Mystics added free agent guard Jaime Redd.

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