Get Ready for Season Two of Athletes Unlimited Basketball

Some of the WNBA’s best are reuniting in Dallas.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

Courtney Williams will captain a team for AU Basketball’s opening weekend. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The second season of Athletes Unlimited (AU) Basketball tips off on February 23 in Dallas, Texas. Team Williams (captained by Courtney Williams) takes on Team Sims (captained by Odyssey Sims) first, and Team Cloud (captained by Natasha Cloud) tips off against Team Cole (captained by Taj Cole) to close out the first games of the season. 

The kicker? They just met their teammates on Sunday. The first AU Basketball draft of the season took place on February 19, and athletes have a chance to play three games with their teams before the four players with the most points take over as team captains and draft entirely new teams on February 26. While this model of competition may seem daunting, some players love the challenge. NaLyssa Smith, who is just coming off of her rookie campaign with the Indiana Fever, chose to play Athletes Unlimited basketball instead of playing overseas: “When you have to play with different players, it challenges you. You’ve got to learn what they like to do, whether they like to roll/pop, how they like to be communicated to. It just helps you as a leader, a person and a player.” 

How Does Athletes Unlimited Basketball Work?

AU Basketball is unique because it’s all about the players. The league features an innovative scoring system, and at the end of each week, players want to see their names at the top of the leaderboards. The top four finishers each week earn the chance to be captains, but players are also incentivized with monetary rewards—the higher the ranking of a player, the more money they walk away with at the end of the season.

Players can accumulate points in three major ways: team win points, being voted game MVP, and individual stats on both sides of the ball. Individual work matters, but team wins are still the most important as those points account for approximately 64% of the points a player earns during each AU season.

Win points are awarded to everyone on the team and are awarded for each individual quarter as well as for the overall game. Individuals on the team that wins a quarter earn 50 points. Quarters that are tied roll over to the next quarter with 100 points then up for grabs. The team that wins the game earns 100 points. 

Game MVP points are voted on by players and members of The Unlimited Club, Athletes Unlimited’s exclusive fan club. There are three MVPs in a game: the person who receives the most votes is given 90 points, the person with the second most votes is given 60 points, and the final MVP receives 30.

Last year’s top four finishers were Tianna Hawkins, Natasha Cloud, Isabelle Harrison, and Lexie Brown. While Hawkins is not competing in the league this season, the other three champions will be looking to repeat their performances from last year. However, they will be going up against some very stiff competition. 18 of the 44 players competing for this year’s title have WNBA experience, and several others, like Mya Hollingshed, have experience playing at the World Cup. Some of the players that fans might recognize are Layshia Clarendon (Sparks),  Veronica Burton (Wings), Lexie Hull (Fever), Kierstan Bell (Aces), Sydney Colson (Aces), Naz Hillmon (Dream), Evina Westbrook (Mystics), Kelsey Mitchell (Fever), and DiJonai Carrington (Sun).

Sydney Colson, who is returning for her second season of AU Basketball, thinks that this increased level of competition is only going to make the league better.  “We just have way more depth in our talent from top to bottom. In our scrimmages we had a chance to see that.”

How Can Fans Get in on the Action?

During the first week of the season, all four teams have games on February 23, 24, and 26. Thanks to a partnership with the WNBA, 25 of the 30 games played this season (including all of the games played on February 23 and 24) will be available to stream through the WNBA League Pass. CBS Sports Network will also broadcast five games, while select games will be simulcast by the Women’s Sports Network and Bally Sports regional sports networks. The Athletes Unlimited season schedule also includes a list of where each game will be available to watch.

Fans can also take their engagement to the next level by playing in the AU Basketball fantasy league for a chance to earn prizes.

All of the action starts tonight. Savanna Collins and Khristina Williams will be hosting a preview show on YouTube at 5:45 p.m. ET before the league officially tips off at 6:00 p.m. ET when Team Williams takes on Team Sims. 

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