March 12, 2002

By CHUCK SCHOFFNER

AP Sports Writer

Connecticut's Sue Bird and Oklahoma's Stacey Dales, the point guards of the nation's top two women's basketball teams, were the top picks on The Associated Press All-America teams.

Bird received the most votes from a nationwide media panel, and Oklahoma's Stacey Dales became the sixth player to repeat as a first-team selection. They were joined by Alana Beard of Duke, Chantelle Anderson of Vanderbilt and LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State.

Anderson and Thomas moved up from the second team last season, when Bird was on the third team and Beard received honorable mention. The first team duplicated the preseason All-America team in November.

Bird, Beard and Anderson were the only players picked on all 44 ballots cast by the media representatives who vote in the AP poll. The team has only two seniors, Bird and Dales. Anderson and Thomas are juniors and Beard is a sophomore.

Bird, who received 41 first-team votes and 214 points on a 5-3-1 basis, is the ultimate point guard - unselfish and smart, yet offensive-minded enough to score when needed. She was one of four Connecticut players on the three All-America teams, the first time one school has had that many.

Connecticut's Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi made the second team and UConn's Asjha Jones was on the third team. The Huskies' fifth starter, Tamika Williams, received honorable mention.

"It's a great honor to make the first team among so many talented players, and I can't be more excited for my teammates, either," Bird said. "We've worked so hard all year long, and the fact that all five have been recognized by The AP goes to show how balanced and truly talented our starting five are.

"I'm glad we can all share the honors together."

Bird is the one who keeps that group together. She averages 13.7 points and 5.9 assists, and makes opponents pay when they foul her. Bird has missed only six free throws all season.

Beard received 36 first-team votes and had 204 points, while Anderson had 37 first-team votes and 200 points, followed by Dales with 177 and Thomas with 140.

Versatile enough at 5-feet-11 to play on the perimeter or inside, Beard leads Duke in scoring (19.5), assists (4.6) and steals (3.2) and is second in rebounding (6.1).

"I am almost speechless," Beard said. "To finish second in votes to Sue Bird is amazing because Sue is an outstanding player. For me to be a sophomore and get the second-most votes is very exciting."

Anderson, a 6-foot-6 center, is almost automatic when she gets the ball near the basket. She's shooting 65.9 percent this season and has expanded her range, while averaging 20.2 points and 6.3 rebounds.

"It is an honor to be recognized and to be included in the company of those I consider to be some of the best players in the country," Anderson said. "I realized I am only as good as my teammates allow me to be, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by great players and coaches every day."

Dales led second-ranked Oklahoma to the Big 12 regular-season and conference championships. Like Bird, Dales' leadership and mere presence on the court make her valuable, but she also has good numbers: 17.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

She was at her best in the Big 12 tournament, averaging 22.3 points in three games and capping the Sooners' title run with 25 points and 11 rebounds against Baylor.

"If ever there was a kid who deserves to shine at this time, it's Stacey Dales," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "I'm telling you, she is fun to watch. There were many, many plays in Kansas City this past weekend where I just sat down and enjoyed watching her."

Dales, who played for Canada in the 2000 Olympics, said her team has helped her get noticed.

"This team has such great chemistry, it's such a great unit," she said. "To earn an award like this says a lot about the team you're associated with."

Thomas has been Mississippi State's go-to player since she arrived in Starkville. She's second nationally in scoring this season (24.9) and had games of 40 and 43 points. Thomas also averages 9.7 rebounds and shoots 57.7 percent.

"I'm just happy," Thomas said. "Not everybody is fortunate enough to be one of the top players in the nation. It's a great honor. I have to thank my teammates because without them, none of this would be possible."

Joining Cash and Taurasi on the second team were Angie Welle of Iowa State, Nicole Powell of Stanford and Kelly Mazzante of Penn State. Jones tied Shereka Wright for the final spot on the third team, which also had Sheila Lambert of Baylor, Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota, Kara Lawson of Tennessee and Linda Frohlich of UNLV.