Kierstan Bell

2024 AU Pro Basketball Draft Report: Week 1 Preview

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2024 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
W.G. Ramirez
Feb 27, 2024

The first of four drafts in Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball is complete, and the anticipation for Season 3 continues to grow.

Guard Odyssey Sims, captain of Team Gold, captained a team for a sixth consecutive week dating back to last season. Joining her as captains were guards Kelsey Mitchell, Allisha Gray, and reigning AU Pro Basketball Defensive Player of the Year Lexie Hull.

After an impressive preseason during scrimmage games, AU veteran Air Hearn was chosen first in the Week One Draft by Mitchell. It marked her first time being chosen first overall, while she became the sixth different player to be taken as the top pick in the league’s weekly draft.

With what should have been no surprise to many, Sims’ top pick was two-time WNBA champion Kierstan Bell. Sims took Bell four of the five weeks last season. Bell was captain in Week 4 and couldn’t be drafted.

Gray went for scoring with her immediate picks on AU newcomer Tiffany Mitchell and veteran Natasha Cloud.

Hull, meanwhile, opened her draft with a Pac-12 vibe, taking Ruthy Hebard (Oregon) and former Stanford teammate Haley Jones.

A look into Week One:


Saturday, 6 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. CT, Team Sims vs. Team Hull — Sims’ starting lineup could include herself, Bell, Lexie Brown, Kalani Brown, and newcomer Rae Burrell – a quintet that could pose problems for all three of the other teams. Part of Team Sims’ impressive depth includes Olympic gold medalist and the newest OG to the AU family, Angel McCoughtry. Team Hull, meanwhile, has experienced scorers from previous AU seasons, including veteran Essence Carson. The key for this team, though, could be facilitator Karima Christmas-Kelly (see below).


In her third season with the league, AU veteran Taj Cole was an eighth-round pick on Team Mitchell, and it was an absolute steal. Cole’s name litters the AU Basketball record books, falling in the top five in far too many categories to mention. She ranks ninth all-time with 7,148 total points, while her six 3-pointers from Feb. 26, 2022, is tied with seven other occasions for most treys made in one game. When Mitchell decides to go with a guard-oriented lineup, Cole is someone who serves dimes or pulls up with little to no space against any defender.


Christmas-Kelly is an assistant coach with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Not only does Hull star for the Fever, but she drafted her Indiana teammate Grace Berger. Christmas-Kelly has seen her share of success in both college and the pros. She is a two-time NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team selection, and she reached the WNBA playoffs five times. And from a defensive standpoint, she’ll know an opposing captain all too well when Team Mitchell faces Team Hull. Mitchell is also a member of the Fever.


Also joining the AU forces as a facilitator is legendary Briann January, who spent her final season in the WNBA on the same retirement tour as Sue Bird. And while Bird took most of the spotlight in 2022, January was well deserving of her own flowers. January, who just completed her first season as an assistant in the W with the Connecticut Sun, enjoyed an incredible 14-year playing career that included 13 playoff appearances with four different teams. Well-respected and beloved around the league, January was a seven-time WNBA All-Defensive Team selection, including five First-Team commendations.


Brown enjoyed a huge first season with AU Pro Basketball in Las Vegas, where she started all 15 games and averaged 26.8 minutes per game. After a year away from AU, and spending time overseas in Israel, she enjoyed a career year with the WNBA’s Dallas Wings last summer, averaging career-highs in games played (32), games started (5), minutes per game (16.4), field-goal percentage (62.9%), free-throw percentage (80.2%), assists per game (1.0), and points per game (7.8). Brown, the tallest player in AU, isn’t just a dominant force on the boards, though, as she can run the floor in transition if needed. Brown will prove to be an important role for any team she’s on, starting with Team Sims.


Known as several of the AU OG’s, Ty Young, Essence Carson, and Sydney Colson went consecutively in the fifth round, bringing experience to Team Mitchell, Team Hull and Team Gray, respectively. All three veterans have been with the league since its inception. Team Sims later grabbed McCoughtry, in the eighth round, as previously mentioned, adding a wealth of experience to her roster.


Isabelle Harrison is back for her third AU season, though she is listed as inactive for Week One. But joining her at AU this season is her younger sister, Dorie. The two were back-to-back picks in the final round. Isabelle, who generally has been near the top of the leaderboard the first two seasons, would’ve been a top pick had she not been listed as inactive but went ninth to Team Hull. Dorie will make her AU debut as part of Team Mitchell. Both are listed at 6-foot-3, the first time they play will be a fun matchup to see.


W.G. Ramirez is a 36-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a correspondent for Athletes Unlimited. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez

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