DURHAM, N.C. – Former Duke University standout Alana Beard received some prestigious WNBA hardware Tuesday as the Los Angeles Sparks guard was presented with the 2017 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. She won the honor for the first time in her 12-year career and became the second Sparks player to win the award.
Beard received 28 votes from a national panel of 40 sportswriters and broadcasters.
The 2004 Duke alumna led the WNBA in steals for the first time, averaging 2.09 per game while starting all 34 of Los Angeles’ games. Behind Beard, the Sparks paced the WNBA in steals (9.29 spg) and opponents’ turnovers per game (16.4). They also ranked second in defensive rating (96.0 points per 100 possessions) and points allowed (75.2 ppg).
Beard averaged 6.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists and shot a career-best 49.7 percent from the field. Her contributions helped the defending champion Sparks (26-8) finish with the third-most victories in franchise history and earn a double bye as the No. 2 seed in the WNBA Playoffs 2017 presented by Verizon. Los Angeles opens its postseason tonight against Phoenix in Game one of the semifinals (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Beard has been selected to the WNBA All-Defensive Team seven times. She ranks fourth on the WNBA’s all-time steals list with 654, the most among active players. In honor of being named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Beard will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.
Former Duke All-America Jasmine Thomas of the Connecticut Sun was also named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team Tuesday. Thomas, who graduated from Duke in 2011, received 49 points in voting joining Beard, Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles), Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota) and Tina Charles (New York) on the first team.
Thomas made the All-Defensive First Team for the first time in her seven-year career after appearing as a second team selection a year ago. The 2017 WNBA All-Star averaged a career-high 1.59 steals (fourth in the WNBA), including a season-high five steals in three straight games from July 8-13. Thomas also averaged 14.2 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds on the season with the Sun.