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Duke basketball great Alana Beard on hall of fame selection

DUKE-MD9.SP.012204.JLW--Durham,NC--Duke's Alana Beard fights past the defense of Maryland's Anesia Smith (left) during Thursday evening's matchup against Maryland.  Duke won 78-48.  staff photo by john l.  white

DUKE-MD9.SP.012204.JLW–Durham,NC–Duke’s Alana Beard fights past the defense of Maryland’s Anesia Smith (left) during Thursday evening’s matchup against Maryland. Duke won 78-48. staff photo by john l. white

john l. white

When Alana Beard retired from her 14-year WNBA career in January 2020, she received showers of adoration from her peers. From fellow Duke Blue Devil Nolan Smith, to the late Kobe Bryant, people around basketball celebrated Beard’s contributions to the game.

One night recently, Beard — whose 2,687 points set Duke’s school scoring record — was walking out for dinner when her phone buzzed with a call from an unknown number. It was Duke athletics director Nina King, calling to inform Beard that the former Duke guard will be inducted into Duke’s Hall of Fame on Dec. 9.

Her initial reaction? A simple “thank you,” with little emotion. That lack of excitement about her own accolades from her was n’t new.

Later in the call, though, when she heard that her coach — Gail Goestenkors, or ‘Coach G’ as Beard refers to her — would be joining her as part of the 2022 Hall of Fame class, the four-time all-star was ecstatic. As soon as Beard wrapped up the phone call with King, she immediately reached out to her former coach.

During her recruitment, Beard remembered Goestenkors visiting her Shreveport, Louisiana home. Duke came in at the tail end of the process, and she met with Duke at the behavior of her high school coach de ella. Beard sat on the floor in her family’s living room when Goestenkors walked in and sat right beside her. That small gesture revealed to Beard a lot about Goestenkors’ character of her.

“She has been sort of an intricate piece of my development as a human being and as a woman,” Beard told The News & Observer. “There are no words to describe how much she means to me.

“I know how much work we put in together to build what was already built before me. I’m very cautious to not take credit for that.”

Goestenkors boasted a 396-99 career record in his Duke career. Duke amassed a 126-14 record during Beard’s four years in Durham, including back-to-back Final Four appearances.

Beard is quick to give thanks to the players who helped shape the Duke program before her. She rattles off names like Michele Van Gorp, Georgia Schweitzer, and Lauren Rice as players who attracted the Louisiana native to Duke. Schweitzer, in particular, left a lasting impression on Beard, whom she said it’s a privilege joining the Hall of Fame.

Schweitzer, who graduated after Beard’s freshman season, showed Beard how to lead and highlighted the importance of living up to the Duke standard. Schweitzer also gave Beard the keys to Duke—in a metaphorical sense, and a physical sense.

When Beard and Schweitzer played, students didn’t have a card or thumbprint scanner to enter the gymnasium whenever they pleased. A physical key was required to not only get into the gymnasium, but also to let down the goal.

“The fact that she passed the key of Cameron to me… it gave me the access to go into work and get better any time that I wanted, day or night,” Beard said. “Georgia was the one that probably made the biggest impression on me.”

Beard’s retirement allowed her to reflect on her accomplishments in the game. She reflected on the fact that her Class of 2004 was the largest to represent African Americans at Duke; how she is the first women’s basketball player to have her jersey number de ella (20) retired at Duke; that her team won four straight ACC titles. Despite racking up numerous accolades, it’s the relationships and people that Beard remembered most fondly.

“I have to go and look it up, right, to fact check,” Beard said when people bring up their accomplishments. “None of the accolades and awards mean anything to me. The most important thing that I can take with me for my journey of playing basketball for 20-plus years are the relationships that I was capable of building and establishing.”

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Kyle Williams is the sports reporting intern at the News & Observer. A native of Chicago, Illinois, he has worked at Marquee Sports Network, ABC7, and CHGO. He is a graduate of Knox College with a major in journalism and a minor in anthropology and sociology.

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