March 11, 2024 

Emily Engstler is making her mark on Athletes Unlimited

Engstler hopes to earn the attention of WNBA teams

DALLAS —  Emily Engstler has been making history in her first season with Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball (AU). On opening night the 6’1 forward set a single-game record with six blocked shots. After the final game in the second week of play, Engstler has 21 blocks. She’ll get the chance in Week 3 to break the blocks record held by Theresa Plaisance, who recorded 22 blocks in 2023.

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After an impressive first two weeks, Engstler was just 49 player points short of earning a captain spot for Week 3. Player points are the sum of MVP points, win points and stats points. In AU, the players in the top four on the player points leaderboard are the following week’s captains. Now, at the midpoint of the AU season, Engstler is fifth on the leaderboard.

AU is a player driven league where the athletes have an opportunity to showcase and fine tune their skills without having to go overseas. It’s easier for different organizations and WNBA teams to evaluate them when they’re stateside. Some of the players may even find themselves on a WNBA roster this upcoming season.

Drafted by the Indiana Fever as the fourth pick of the 2022 WNBA, Engstler signed to a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics in 2023 and 2024. She told The Next that the most important part of AU for her is growing and learning from the other players and vets. She named Natasha Cloud as one of the veteran players from the WNBA who she’s gotten to learn from.

“Last year I tried out for that same training camp with Tash there. So to be able to experience her again and learn from her and ask her questions about Washington [and] what I need to [do to] get better and stuff like that is going to allow me to hopefully make a [WNBA] roster this season,” Engstler said.

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An impact on and off the court

Engstler has clearly made some noise on the court this AU season. In the first two weeks Engstler has been drafted by team captain Allisha Gray. Team Gray has has been making history of its own. On March 10 the team set a record for the most points in a half with 60. Engstler has contributed to the team in every way possible. She averages 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Gray said she wanted Engstler on her team after watching her compete during scrimmages and seeing how great of a defensive player she is. Engstler’s defensive play is what helped Team Gray set a league high 13 blocks in a single game.

“She can shoot the three and stretch the floor. She also works hard and does the small things as well so that is what really stood out to me,” Gray said.

Engstler, a former Louisville Cardinal standout, told The Next that her game has changed as she’s gained more experience. She is more fast-paced, able to get up and down the court and her IQ is higher. After suffering a shoulder injury in July of 2023 she had surgery in September. As a result, Engstler found herself on the outside looking in for a WNBA roster spot.

“I think that my confidence has taken a bit of a hit throughout the years just because of some of the things that I have been though. I’m working on that. I think these next few years is going to be a couple of years of me working specifically on the confidence aspect of it,” she said.

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Off the court, Engstler was given the opportunity to be head coach of the girls junior varsity team at Christ the King high school in Queens, New York. She said it was a fun experience that taught her patience. It also helped get her X’s and O’s a little better when she came back to her game. She built a relationship with each player individually, which is exactly what she wanted to do.

“I really just wanted to be this pro player for them that they could text or ask questions to when I left; or to help them get colleges from the connections that I have. I’m still working on some of those things for them,” she said. “We still talk, I’m still close with some of them and it was a really good experience for me and the girls.”

Written by Arie Graham

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

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