Neither early-season injuries nor a slow start could keep Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard from achieving an important career milestone. Beard learned yesterday that she will be a reserve on the Eastern Conference team in Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Beard, who was selected by the Mystics with the second overall pick in the 2004 draft from Duke, will make her first all-star appearance. Reserves were voted on by the WNBA's head coaches.

Despite missing all of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with hamstring and ankle injuries, Beard leads the Mystics in scoring, averaging 14.5 points, and is second behind rookie point guard Temeka Johnson in assists, averaging 2.5 per game.

Beard has scored in double figures in 10 of the 11 games she's played this season and ranks third in the WNBA in minutes per game (35.8).

Beard attended the 2003 All-Star Game in New York and imagined herself one day playing in the event.

"Coming into the league, that's definitely one of the goals I set for myself," Beard said. "The coolest part is that it's my second year and I'm going to be up there with the best players in the league. It's exciting."

The Mystics' surge has coincided with Beard's recovery, return to the lineup and steady improvement. After opening the season 2-5, the Mystics (8-7) have won five of their last six games and enter tomorrow's home game against Detroit in third place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind second-place Indiana.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start but now we're playing good basketball," Beard said. "It's important that we keep it going and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs."

-- Ivan Carter