Houston's Curl, Texas' Jackson also honored

Duke senior Alana Beard has been named the USBWA National Player of the Year, the organization announced Wednesday.

Houston's Joe Curl also was honored as the USBWA National Coach of the Year, and Texas forward Tiffany Jackson was named National Freshman of the Year.

Beard also headlined the five-member USBWA All-America first team, which also included Penn State's Kelly Mazzante, Kansas State's Nicole Ohlde, Stanford's Nicole Powell and Connecticut's Diana Taurasi. Beard, Mazzante, Powell and Whalen are four of the eight players in the eight-year history of the USBWA All-America team which were three-time honorees.

Beard, whose Blue Devils lost to Minnesota in the Elite Eight on Tuesday, led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and finished the season with 19.2 points per game to go with 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals. Beard also connected on exactly 50 percent of her field-goal attempts this year. The 30-4 Blue Devils, ranked No. 1 in the final regular-season Associated Press Top 25, came within one game of making their third straight Final Four appearance.

Beard is the first Duke player to be win the award, and broke UConn's two-year dominance. Sue Bird was named the USBWA player of the year in 2002, and Taurasi won the award last season.

In his sixth season at Houston, Curl led the Cougars to a school-record 28 victories and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Houston won the Conference USA regular-season and tournament titles and had won 13 straight games before losing to UC Santa Barbara in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In their first NCAA appearance in 12 seasons, the Cougars defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay for their first tournament win. In Curl's first season five years ago, Houston was 5-22.

Jackson led Texas in scoring with 13.0 points per game to go along with 7.5 rebounds. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year led Texas to a 30-5 record and the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to LSU, which has advanced to the Final Four out of the West Regional.

The United States Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. The USBWA has awarded a women's player of the year since 1988 and a coach of the year since 1990. The organization's freshman of the year award was initiated last season (2003).

Past winners of the player of the year award include Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Ruth Riley, Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw and Rebecca Lobo.

A look at the All-America teams:

First team:

* Alana Beard, Duke, G/F, 5-11, Sr., Shreveport, La.
* Kelly Mazzante, Penn State, G, 6-0, Sr., Montoursville, Pa.
* Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State, F/C, 6-5, Sr., Clay Center, Kan.
* Nicole Powell, Stanford, F, 6-2, Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.
* Diana Taurasi, Connecticut, G/F, 6-0, Sr., Chino, Calif.

Second team:

Shyra Ely, Tennessee, F, 6-2, Jr., Indianapolis, Ind.
Chandi Jones, Houston, F/G, 5-10, Sr., Bay City, Texas
Stacy Stephens, Texas, F/C, 6-1, Sr., Winnsboro, Texas
* Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota, G, 5-9, Sr., Hutchinson, Minn.
* Shereka Wright, Purdue, F, 5-10, Sr., Copperas Cove, Texas

* Denotes repeat selection