December 15, 2022
Inside the details of Athletes Unlimited’s 2023 basketball season
'Athletes Unlimited gave me the opportunity to stay here'
Athletes Unlimited (AU) will be playing its second season in Dallas, Texas from February 23 to March 26 2023. The league provides American players an opportunity to play stateside and continue to play competitive basketball. The league is also another way to showcase more talent in professional women’s basketball that has not been seen in the WNBA.
There were eight players added to the roster this week, two of whom which played in the WNBA; Crystal Bradford and Lexie Hull. CC Andrews returns for her second season in Athletes Unlimited. New additions G’mrice Davis, Caliya Robinson, Kobi Thornton, Suriya McGuire, Jenna Staiti, Bradford and Hull will be playing in Athletes Unlimited for the first time. With the new additions there will be a total of 39 players participating in AU.
At the end of every WNBA season, players have to decide if they would like to stay home or play overseas for a salary that the WNBA cannot provide. The pay from AU allows “athletes to earn more in a five-week season than they would playing seven months overseas.”, according to the league. Including the eight newcomers, AU now features 17 players with WNBA experience.
Hull spoke with Howard Megdal on the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast about why she joined Athletes Unlimited as a part of her busy off-season.
“I knew when the WNBA season ended that I had a decision to make, whether that was going to be going to play overseas or stay in the states and Athletes Unlimited gave me the opportunity to stay here, train and then still be able to play competitive basketball before next season,” Hull said.
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When players decide to go overseas they miss out on time with friends, family as well as opportunities to promote their brand and try things outside of basketball. The 2023 AU season is being played in Dallas for just five weeks and it will give players in the WNBA to have a break before the start of training camp. The 2023 WNBA season begins May 19.
“It was really a tough decision because I could have gone overseas and played,” Hull said. “But I think for me, I am such a family person, someone that really likes to be close to home, see my friends, see my family and I knew that going overseas, I was going to be sad and I’d really miss being close to my family. So being able to stay in the States, be close to them, and still play and train and get better this offseason — when Athletes Unlimited came up, that was the perfect avenue for me because I was able to do all the things that I really cared about really wanted to do.”
Athletes Unlimited has a scoring format where players can earn points individually and as a team. Tianna Hawkins was the champion of the 2022 season and her Washington Mystics teammate Natasha Cloud came in second place. The league offers an opportunity for players to face off against different playing styles while things are shaken up with a team draft taking place every week. AU allows players to get out of their comfort zones while honing their skills against high level competition. Hull will be playing in the league with two of her Indiana Fever teammates, Kelsey Mitchell and NaLyssa Smith. Being able to play with two of her teammates could prove to be beneficial in the 2023 WNBA season.
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“I think it’s super, super beneficial to be able to play five weeks of games against high level players and then also like you said, have those minutes actually on the court to gain confidence, gain experience,” Hull said. “This year in the Athletes Unlimited league, there are so many really talented players and so I think that’s something that I’m super excited about, to be able to play with and also to play against every single game, people I’ll be playing against or with in the W this year. So I’m super excited just to be able to gain confidence playing against those players,” Hull said.
CBS Sports Network will air five of the 30 games live, while the remainder of the games
can be viewed via the Athletes Unlimited YouTube page. Select games will be simulcast
by the Women’s Sports Network and Bally Sports regional sports networks.