February 28, 2022 

Athletes Unlimited season ends with talents recognized, return promised

Athletes Unlimited Hoops is set to return in early 2023

On Saturday, the inaugural Athletes Unlimited Hoops season concluded with a blockbuster finish: a nail-biting triple-overtime showdown, next season’s announcement and a slew of awards recognition.

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The league crowned their Champion, Defensive Player of the Year, All-Defensive Team, and Sportsmanship Award.

Washington Mystic Tianna Hawkins walked away with the 2022 Athletes Unlimited Basketball Champion award after amassing 6,836 points. AU’s innovative player-focused model awards individual players individual, team, and MVP points based on wins, rebounds, assists, turnovers, and more. Each week the points stack up to determine an ultimate winner.

Mystics teammate Natasha Cloud came soon behind Hawkins with 5,919 points. Dallas Wings’ Isabelle Harrison and 2021 Chicago Sky guard Lexie Brown followed.

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Hawkins dominated throughout the AU season after being waived by the Atlanta Dream just before the AU season began. She averaged a double-double, with a 23.8 scoring average. A clear contender from the start, Hawkins proved what she was made of both during the AU season and in the W, where she’ll come back in May as a Mystic. After being crowned the AU Champion, she reflected on the rejection from the Dream.

“Atlanta said I wasn’t gonna be good enough. And what I did? I got my ass in the gym, I worked on myself, and here I am!” Hawkins said.

On the defensive end, Harrison proved herself to be a force throughout the season. She averaged 17.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and remained in the top 5 of the leaderboard the entire season.

In her DPOY acceptance, Harrison shouted out her college coach, the Tennessee Lady Vol legend Pat Summit.

Her all-defensive teammates included former WNBA player Nikki Greene, newly-signed Seattle Storm Lauren Manis, Connecticut Sun DiJonai Carrington and Lexie Brown.

Rounding out the awards was CC Andrews, who won the Sportsmanship Award. “I came into this season wanting to be vocal and do whatever I needed to for my team,” Andrews said. “I have taken that role the entire five weeks and really not worried about anything else.”

But most exciting for fans and players is that Athletes Unlimited announced it would be back again in 2023. Over the five weeks, the inaugural league has garnered serious attention from fans, players, WNBA coaches, and GMs.

The league was lauded for its savvy social media focus and highlighting of players.

And though it’ll be nearly a year until the next hoops season, if you want more AU immediately, their volleyball season begins March 16.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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