March 21, 2024 

Champions Week for Athletes Unlimited begins with a leaderboard shuffle

Allisha Gray remains in first place with an 855-point lead

Week 3 of Athletes Unlimited (AU) ended with Odyssey Sims getting the second triple-double in league history. She scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 12 assists. Team Sims, the purple squad, was the second team to go undefeated this season.

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Week 3 recap

The triple-double from Sims was not the only thing written in the AU books in its penultimate week. Guard Allisha Gray set a new record, scoring 116 points in three games. Her week began with putting up a career-high 42 points; 23 of them came in the second half in a barn burner against Team Sims in a 106-105 loss. 

Although Team Gray, the gold squad, went 1-2, the former South Carolina Gamecock still has a hold on the top spot on the leaderboard. She has a 855-point lead over the current second-place holder, Sims. 

Natasha Cloud shoots over Sydney Colson in Athletes Unlimited action
Natasha Cloud shoots over Sydney Colson in Game 18. (Photo credit: Jade Hewitt | Athletes Unlimited)

Natasha Cloud dropped to third on the leaderboard. Her team, the orange squad, went 2-1. Forward Isabelle Harrison scored an AU career high of 41 points March 14. She scored 29 of those points in the second half, leading the team to a 105-101 overtime victory against Team Mitchell, the blue squad. 

Tiffany Mitchell has had a tough go of it as captain, winning just one game in the past two weeks. She dropped four spots on the leaderboard, now sitting in seventh place. While her team went 0-3, there were some bright spots. 

Forward Maddy Siegrist has shined under Team Mitchell, averaging 20 points a game. She also has a league-leading four double-doubles. Mitchell has led her team, averaging 23 points per game. Guard Zia Cooke posted a career-high 32 points coming off of the bench March 14. She averaged 20 points per game in Week 3. 

Sheryl Swoopes was honored March 16 during the AU Celebrity Hoops Classic. (Photo credit: Arie Graham | The Next)

Every week AU promotes a theme. For the third week of the season on March 16, the league highlighted women’s basketball legends, including Sheryl Swoopes and president of Legends of Ball Elizabeth Galloway-McQuitter. AU also held its inaugural Celebrity Hoops Classic. Acknowledging former players was one of the highlights of Week 3. They honored Swoopes with a limited-edition AU jacket.

AU director of basketball Megan Perry said on a March 18 Zoom call that she was very excited about the quality of play and the competition being raised. 

“We’ve been filling up Fair Park, so I think overall we’re really excited with what Week 3 brought to AU, and, as we head into our fourth week of competition, Championship Week, we’ve had some shifts in our standings, the top of the leaderboard, which makes things exciting and kind of spices it up,” she said.

Week 4 preview

Week 4 captain and two-time WNBA champion Kierstan Bell defends Ty Young. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

One big shift in the leaderboard was Kierstan Bell finishing in fourth place in Week 3. The 6’1 forward will serve as captain for the second time in her AU career. It will be the first time that she will not be playing on Team Sims dating back to last season. Bell scored a game-high 26 points to help the team go undefeated. She has been a key component to Team Sims’ success. It will be interesting to see how Bell and Sims play without each other. 

AU has a weekly draft. If a team jells and plays well to win, the chemistry gets broken up and players are shifted every week. The captains are posed with the challenge of putting together a team they believe can win, even if the players who shone are taken by another captain. 

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Gray appears to have a chokehold on the No. 1 spot. It would take her team losing quarters, all three games and a bad performance from Gray for her to fall out of first place. 

But in AU, anything can happen since teams have to create ways to win on the fly. The same things that worked last week might not work this week for any of the retuning captains.

The league announced its 2024 All-Defensive team on March 20: Lexie Hull, Natasha Cloud, Emily Engstler (who set a single-game record for blocked shots on opening night), Laeticia Amihere and Sydney Colson.

Champions Day is March 23.

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Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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