Athletes Unlimited (AU) is back for 2023 with a new look, new location (Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, TX), and a new roster of exciting players jockeying for supremacy across the leaderboard.
This year, AU announced a fantasy component to their season, with their own leaderboard and prizes available.
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🔗: https://t.co/jwfrgW5iTN pic.twitter.com/FSfeIF33L9
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) January 26, 2023
Information at this time is a bit light, but according to the AU website, scoring will mimic how the league calculates player totals for the leaderboard, making it relatively easy to follow and see how players are performing from game to game. Rosters will have room for four players – one guard, one forward, and two utility spots.
Players earn points through a variety of individual and team-based metrics. “Win points” accumulate across both individual quarters and overall game wins, with each quarter worth 50 points and overall games 150 points. The conclusion of each game also involves players and members of The Unlimited Club voting for MVP, with the top three vote-getters adding points to their resume (first place gets 90 points, second 60 points, and third 30 points).
Individual stats are also calculated in real time, with players earning both positive points (made field goals, assists, steals, etc.) and negative points (turnovers, fouls committed, missed shots, etc.).
While understanding the scoring is important to following the AU and constructing your fantasy teams, we’ll be watching the players, whose talents and passions make this league an absolute gem in the women’s basketball world.
Let’s introduce you to some of the superstars and under-the-radar talent you’ll be enjoying over the AU’s five weeks of action.
Natasha Cloud – Last year’s runner up was the best version of herself on the AU court. She led the league in assist points by a staggering 230. She made the most free throws, the third-most threes, and the fourth-most defensive rebounds. She even drew the third-most personal fouls from other players. She was everywhere at all times during the season, using the more relaxed nature of this league to play loose and fully expose her talents. Look for more of the same in 2023.
Allisha Gray – This AU newcomer joins the league after a long streak of strong play, starting with her gold medal win as a 3×3 participant in the Tokyo Olympics. Gray has historically been a well-rounded contributor, which will fit in nicely within the AU scoring format. During her 2022 WNBA campaign, she averaged 13.3 points per game (PPG), 4.8 rebounds (RPG), 2.5 assists (APG), and 1.1 steals (SPG), while shooting a career best 40.8 percent from beyond the arc. That level of production was borderline All-Star worthy in the WNBA, and if she can replicate those numbers, she’ll be near the top of the leaderboard this spring.
NaLyssa Smith – The 2022 WNBA All-Rookie team member injected a new level of talent and intrigue when she signed on to be a part of the AU league. The Texas native and Baylor product will come into Dallas with an array of offensive and defensive talents sure to render dividends. In her lone WNBA season, Smith averaged 13.5 PPG on 41.9 percent shooting, and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc, while leading all rookies with 7.9 RPG. Looking at Smith’s size and offensive efficiency, I’m reminded of 2022 AU champion Tianna Hawkins’ game, which is why I recommend locking her in every fantasy lineup you can.
Isabelle Harrison – The 2022 third-place finisher has a great chance to finish even higher in 2023. Harrison is a creative post player, prolific rebounder, and solid rim protector, and she enters this season as one of the best bigs on the AU roster. In 2022, she finished second in made two-point field goals and defensive rebounds, and was top ten in blocks, assists, and offensive rebounds. These all-around contributions are a longtime feature of Harrison’s game and will certainly translate to her AU performance.
Kelsey Mitchell – This 2022 WNBA All-Star finished 11th in the 2022 AU season, despite missing four games. Mitchell brings with her an impressive offensive arsenal, so much so that despite the time missed in 2022, she was still top-five in three-point field goals made, and top ten in two-point field goals made, as well as assists. She’s a lock to rain points this AU season.
Under the Radar
Lexie Hull – After what was largely considered a disappointing rookie season in the W, Hull was a late addition to the AU roster for 2023. While she didn’t see the floor as often as many would have hoped last year, Lexie closed out her rookie campaign with a lot of promise. In the last five games of 2022, Hull averaged 10.4 PPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.2 SPG during 27.8 minutes of play, at least showing promise and a potential to contribute at a high level.
DiJonai Carrington – Maybe no longer an under the radar pick after her breakout 2022 season, when she finished on the AU All-Defensive Team, Carrington is also one of the opening week captains, who will be drafting their teams for the first weekend of play.
Week 1️⃣ captains are locked in 🏀
🟠 Odyssey Sims
🔗: https://t.co/nbCQTxcZz0 pic.twitter.com/0ZMuIKWG3v
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) January 31, 2023
Last season, Carrington personified the “3 and D” style of play, leading the league in steals and finishishing top-ten in defensive rebounds, assists, and three-point field goals made. That success helped Carrington launch a successful sophomore campaign in the WNBA, where she took a big leap forward in all-around production. This year’s AU court may be where she turns into a superstar.
Veronica Burton – Speaking of WNBA players looking to take a big step, Burton steps into this AU experience after an up-and-down rookie season with the Dallas Wings. Burton, who flashed potential last season, is known as a defensive menace, as seen in her second playoff game against the Connecticut Sun, coming away with four steals. If she can bring that same defensive intensity and improve on her shooting (she was 32.9 percent from the field and 27.9 percent from three during the 2022 WNBA season), she could sneak her way into the top-ten leaderboard this spring.
Regardless of who’s on your fantasy roster, this season of AU hoops promises to deliver great action. The league is a unique mix of well-known WNBA players and those at different stages in their basketball careers. Take, for example, Jessica Kuster, the all-time leading scorer for Rice University and youth minister in Los Angeles, who now enters her second AU season after starting the final eight contests last year. The fire and narratives fuel themselves, and the basketball is sure to be off-the-charts exciting.
Athletes Unlimited’s season begins on February 19 with their Week One draft. Games begin February 23. Get those fantasy lineups ready!
Stats are courtesy of Athletes Unlimited and WNBA Stats.
Thanks for reading!