The second season of Athletes Unlimited Basketball is about to start so the roster is now set. As was the case last year, a number of WNBA players are involved alongside other professionals, some with extensive WNBA or overseas experience. With players finding last season a success, there are many returnees, but there are new faces as well. Here is a breakdown of the 44 players and their previous professional experience.
Returning WNBA Players
The new league was clearly a positive experience for many players with plenty of returning players who would have had plenty of opportunities elsewhere. The original group of captains for the first week was Natasha Cloud, Odyssey Sims, DiJonai Carrington, and Courtney Williams. They were not the only players from last year who ended the last WNBA season on a roster as Lexie Brown, Sydney Colson, Isabelle Harrison, and Kelsey Mitchell also returned. All of those players figure to be competing for captain spots or being selected early in the weekly drafts. The other returning players who had previous WNBA experience are Essence Carson and Ty Young.
New WNBA Players
A new group of players who ended last season in the WNBA is also entering the league, including many finishing their rookie seasons like NaLyssa Smith, Lexie Hull, Veronica Burton, and Naz Hillmon. Kierstan Bell joins having already started her first offseason playing part of a season in Australia with the Adelaide Lightning. Changing teams each week might not be too much of a challenge for Evina Westbrook after she spent parts of her rookie season with three different teams. Longtime WNBA veterans Theresa Plaisance, Allisha Gray, and Jordin Canada are also newcomers. Jasmine Walker is another player who headed to another league after the WNBA campaign, playing in Puerto Rico with the Morovis Mountaineers until the end of their short season.
In terms of players who did not end the WNBA season on a team, Layshia Clarendon joins having already signed a WNBA contract for this season. Crystal Bradford is looking to play her way back on to a roster as well having started this offseason with Girona in the Spanish league after playing with the Flint Monarchs of the GWBA when she did not catch on last season. In terms of players with WNBA experience from further in the past, Whitney Knight joins having played extensively around the world, playing part of this season with the Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rico. Another newcomer is N’dea Jones, who was under contract during a WNBA season even though she never entered a game.
Half of the players this season are returnees and some of them have played elsewhere since the last season. Danni McCray headed to Australia’s state leagues shortly after last season, heading to the Goldsfields Giants in Western Australia and then joining the Lares Patriots this season. She was teammates there with Akela Maize. Antoinette Bannister was one of the players who immediately headed to a new team after last season, going to the Monterrey Phoenix in Mexico and then also playing part of this season with Partizani in Albania before returning. Air Hearn played in a 4th tier league in Australia, joining the Sherbrooke Suns for their season in the second division of Big V Basketball. Jessica Kuster finished last season with DVTK in Hungary. Destinee Walker played for the Carolina Giants in Puerto Rico for a few games when they had a temporary opening. Rebecca Harris stayed in the United States for her next team, playing with the Flint Monarchs during the GWBA season. Kirby Burkholder has also joined the leadership team for players having played for Costa Masnaga in Italy after last season. Taj Cole managed to go from relatively unknown to a WNBA training camp as one of the big stories of the first season and will try to repeat that feat again. CC Andrews and MeMe Jackson also return for another season.
There are also a number of new players with a range of professional experience. Jenna Staiti had previously agreed to start her rookie season in Spain with Zaragoza, but this ends up being the first league where she will play. Mya Hollingshed was certainly expecting to play in the WNBA after being picked 8th in the draft, but did not end up making the opening day roster. Instead she ended up playing as the naturalized player for Puerto Rico at the World Cup and then making her club debut with Dynamo Novosibirsk in Russia for their regular season. Returning to the basketball court after years away is Hope Elam, who has pursued a variety of interests since leaving the game. Also playing at a high level for the first time in a few years is Suriya McGuire.
In terms of players with extensive recent overseas experience, Kristi Bellock played the first portion of the season in Israel with Hapoel Petah Tikva. G’mrice Davis played for Tenerife in Spain for a month. Lydia Rivers was playing with Phoenix Constanta in Romania. Caliya Robinson started last season with Charnay in France and then finished the season with the team that ended up taking their place in the top division in helping Toulouse earn promotion. Karisma Penn split last season with Maccabi Ashdod and Herzliya in Israel.
With all of the new players entering, plenty of last year’s players are elsewhere right now. Tianna Hawkins ended up at the top of the points standings used to calculate individual performances and she is now looking for a different kind of championship with the Townsville Fire in Australia. Kalani Brown had played herself into another WNBA training camp opportunity that did not work out, but she is ready to try again as she is having a fantastic season with Maccabi Ashdod. Drew Edelman, who was her teammate in this competition for several weeks, is also her teammate in Israel as she does not count as a foreign player there and also made her debut for the national team in her return to the place where she has spent the rest of her professional career. Jantel Lavender headed overseas after the WNBA season, joining ambitious Emlak Konut in Turkey. Nikki Greene has recently signed with Arad in Romania. Lauren Manis started the season with Hapoel Rishon Lezion in Israel before playing for MTK in Hungary. Kiki Herbert Harrigan counts as European by being from Anguilla so London Lions in the British league targeted her as a star signing and she already signed a WNBA contract too. Becca Wann-Taylor played over the summer for the Florida Heat, but has been even more on fire this season in Portugal’s second division with Barcelos and if they had the same points system, she would definitely be at the top of the standings. Antoinette Thompson signed with Penza in Kosovo for this season.
Mercedes Russell was unfortunately not able to have the WNBA season that she hoped for after an injury. Dominique Wilson returned overseas to finish last season in Belgium and helped Mechelen win a championship. Toccara Ross played in a notable exhibition tournament in the Dominican Republic over the summer. Briahanna Jackson headed to Mexico after last season to play for the Queretaro Liberators. Brittany Carter played for the St. Louis Surge in the GWBA and then headed to the regional league in Chihuahua, Mexico to play for the Delicia Pioneers. Takoia Larry headed to Mexico shortly after the season to play for the Saltillo Racers. Marjorie Butler is getting ready to finish medical school. Laurin Mincy, Shannon McCallum, Chelsea Phillips, Grace Hunter, Tina Roy, Danielle McCray, and Tyce Knox appear to not have played basketball a highly organized level since last season.