February 28, 2023 

Athletes Unlimited Basketball: Sights and sounds from Week 1

Week 1 of AU Hoops was competitive and tough — Team Williams went undefeated and Sims returns as captain for Week 2

The second season of Athletes Unlimited Basketball (AU) tipped off on Feb. 23 at the Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, TX. Week 1 for each team was competitive and tough as the referees let them play more freely. The night began with an overtime victory for Team Williams against Team Sims 96-93. Team Cloud and Team Cole waited anxiously as the first game was being played. Their match ended 78-72, with Team Cloud getting the win.

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Athletes Unlimited
Theresa Plaisance Week 1, Game 1. Credit: Jade Hewitt, Athletes Unlimited

By the end of opening night, forward Theresa Plaisance was first on the leaderboard with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals. She was not the highest scorer or rebounder for Game 1. She was first for the night because of how the league scores.

AU’s mantra is ‘Every Moment Counts.’ The good and the bad moments are equally important. The players are put in the position to play aggressively while limiting their mistakes in fear of losing points. For example, Team Cole were winless for the first week and still had three players finish in the top 15 of the leaderboard. Forward Naz Hillmon finished fourth.

WNBA coaches, executives and players were in attendance for AU opening weekend

Athletes Unlimited
Assistant General Manager of the Los Angeles Sparks Eli Horowitz. Credit: Arie Graham

There are three Los Angeles Sparks players participating in AU this season. Guards Lexie Brown, Jordin Canada and Layshia Clarendon. Assistant General Manager of the Sparks, Eli Horowitz, was in attendance checking out the athletes opening weekend. He told The Next he thinks it is awesome to provide this opportunity for players as an alternative to those that don’t want to go overseas.

“I’ve been impressed with the player development, the community, the camaraderie. I think it’s really cool,” Horowitz said.

Athletes Unlimited
Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell and guard Arike Ogunbowale Opening Night. Credit: Dorothy J. Gentry

Wings guard Veronica Burton played on Team Sims for Week 1. Two-time All-Star Ogunbowale and Dallas’ head coach Latricia Trammell were in attendance for opening weekend as well in support. Trammell told The Next that it is great for Burton to be in basketball and stay in game shape heading into her second year.

“It’s really good to be here in support of her and watch her grow her game and even her leadership skills on the court,” Trammell said.

Team captains make their own decisions with guidance of their facilitators if needed

Guard Courtney Williams shooting over guard Lexie Brown in Game 5. Credit: Jade Hewitt, Athletes Unlimited

Guards Williams, Natasha Cloud, Taj Cole and Odyssey Sims were captains for Week 1. Team Williams went undefeated, 3-0. Each team is assigned a different facilitator weekly and Pokey Chatman was the facilitator for Team Williams. Chatman told The Next she thought the team went undefeated because Williams was highly intentional about which players she wanted, how she wanted to play and that she was so positive.

“We started that first game off, I think we were down 18-6. [There was] no panic; they didn’t get pissed off,” Chatman said. “She just played the game and always encouraged people and people feed off of that.”

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Facilitators are used to help the team captains and players in any way they need. During the fourth quarter of Game 5, guard Air Hearn and Chatman were reviewing the clipboard together. Chatman said that she was not showing Hearn how to draw up a play but that it was Hearn showing her how to draw up the play she wanted to run for teammate Isabelle Harrison.

AU provides the opportunity for every athlete to learn and lead beyond the court. At the end of Week 1, there are four new captains. Sims returns as a captain for Week 2; she finished the week first on the leaderboard. The new captains are Harrison, Hillmon and NaLyssa Smith. Games resume on March 1.

Written by Arie Graham

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

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