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Beard glad to be back home again
Like most WNBA players, the Mystic guard played overseas to supplement her income. But it wasn't such a joyful adventure.

 The smile is back on the face of Mystics guard Alana Beard now that she's back playing basketball in the United States.
GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 5/16/2006

By JOSEPH WHITE

AP SPORTS WRITER

WASHINGTON--Alana Beard is talented and charismatic, a natural leader who just turned 24. She is the only Duke women's basketball player to have her jersey number retired, and in two years she has established herself as the face of the WNBA's Washington Mystics.

And, five months ago, she spent a miserable Christmas in South Korea.

"The hardest thing I think I've ever had to deal with," Beard said. "It was even harder than going off to college for four years. It was hard not being with my family. I missed Thanksgiving and I missed Christmas to play basketball and I vowed never to do that again. I cried the whole day."

Not long afterward, she was the toast of Seoul women's basketball, at least for one night, when she recorded the first triple-double in the history of the Korean league: 31 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for the Shinsegae Coolcat in an 84-80 loss.

"In Korea, it was a huge deal," said Beard, who was feted with a bonus of about $2,500 for the feat.

Beard spends her offseasons in Australia and South Korea to supplement a WNBA contract that will pay her $42,432 this season--not a great sum for any occupation in the high-cost-of-living area of the nation's capital. Such is the way of life for most of America's top players, whose home professional league has a niche audience but has yet to make the kind of mainstream impact that would translate into solid television ratings and salaries to match.

Mystics coach Richie Adubato feels the effect every training camp, when key players are absent because they are finishing their seasons overseas.

The team acquired point guard Nikki Teasley in a trade with Los Angeles in March, but she couldn't leave her European club until last week and is having to take a crash course in Adubato's complex offense before the May 23 season opener against New York.

Fortunately, among the coach's returning players is Beard, a 5-11 guard who led the Mystics to the playoffs as a rookie in 2004 and was selected to the All-Star game last year.


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WASHINGTON MYSTICS

Season opener: May 23 vs. New York Verizon Center, 7 p.m.