March 5, 2024 

Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball: Sights and sounds from Week 1

First-time captain Allisha Gray is first on the leaderboard after her team goes undefeated

Athletes Unlimited (AU) Pro Basketball returned to Dallas for its third season. It’s the second consecutive year that the games are being played at the Fair Park Coliseum. Three nights a week fans are treated to double-headers and, in Week 1, the players brought the heat from the opening tip. Director of AU Pro Basketball, Megan Perry, said in a press conference on March 4 that one of the major focuses for the league is to continue to elevate its talent and refine the product.

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“I’m excited to say that we’ve seen evidence of [elevated talent] in opening weekend and how they’ve competed. Looking at our leaderboard and looking at the quality of talent at the top of the leaderboard and still how much room there is to for others to move up; and that’s going to be difficult this year, looking at who we have here,” Perry said.

Odyssey Sims reacts to something off camera while wearing an AU uniform
Odyssey Sims during introductions of the game against Team Hillmon on March 4, 2023. (Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra)

The captains

One of the aspects of AU is that teams are redrafted each week. All active players compete on one of the four teams each week. As the teams play each other every week, the leaderboard counts points for each athlete individually. The top four players on the leaderboard each week serve as team captains and draft their new teams. 

For Week 1, Odyssey Sims returned as captain. The guard has been captain for seven weeks in a row dating back to last season. Kelsey Mitchell, the league leader in 3-pointers, returned as captain for a third time. The 2023 AU Pro Basketball Defensive Player of the Year, Lexie Hull, and guard Allisha Gray served as captains for the first time.

Opening night

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Allisha Gray signs autographs after an opening night victory on Feb. 29, 2024. (Photo Credit | Arie Graham)

Team Gray showed their dominance opening night. The team finished with six players in double digits in an 88-67 win against Team Hull. Gray led the way 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The Atlanta Dream guard earned 741 points in game one — the most by any player in a season opener in league history. Forward Emily Engstler set a new single game record with six blocked shots.

Team Sims won a nail-biter against Team Mitchell 94-91. There were 12 ties and 14 lead changes. Sims is the league’s all-time leading scorer and it was her scoring ability that helped her team seal the win. She scored 21 of her 33 points in the second half.

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Dallas Wings in action

The Dallas Wings mascot and dance team pose for a photograph
Dallas Wings mascot Lighting and members of the Flight Crew on Dallas Wings day March 2, 2024. (Photo Credit | Arie Graham)

AU has themes and promotions throughout the season. The fans — from the season ticket holders to friends and families of the players — showed out for a Dallas Wings-themed day. Fittingly, there are three Dallas Wings players in AU this season. Sims, forward Maddy Siegrist and center Kalani Brown. Head coach Latricia Trammell was in attendance to check out the action.

WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes poses for a photo with Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell
Four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes and Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell on March 2, 2024. (Photo Credit | Arie Graham)

Team Gray and Team Sims remained undefeated during day two of opening weekend. Team Gray beat Team Mitchell handily in a 103-82 victory. Tiffany Mitchell and Gray combined for 59 points, earning them both game MVP honors. It was another close game for Team Sims as they edged out Team Hull 92-88.

AU gives players the opportunity to fine tune and showcase their skills while making connections and building relationships. There is comradery among all players. While the competition is intense, players are more relaxed. Most of the pressure comes from making sure they keep mistakes to a minimum and avoid having points taken away.

“I take every game very seriously,” Gray said. “I mean we’re competing out there so why don’t you want to put your best game on the court? I definitely take every game seriously.”

The matchup between Team Gray and Team Sims was highly anticipated due to the action showcased by each team the first two days of opening weekend. Team Sims grinded out their wins and Team Gray showed dominance. Team Sims stood strong but ultimately fell to Team Gray 107-103.

For a first-time captain, Gray put together a team that jelled immediately. The team shot just over 50% from the field and had five players average 10 or more points. Seven of the 10 players on Team Gray were top 10 on the leaderboard with Gray in the top spot.

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Gearing up for Week 2

Natasha Cloud and Tiffany Mitchell are two players from Team Gray that are now captains for Week 2. Sims and Gray will get to face off against each other again as captains. Week 2 begins March 7.

Written by Arie Graham

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

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