Natasha Cloud

2024 AU Pro Basketball Draft Report: Week 4 Preview

Natasha Cloud is on Cloud 9 with a Refreshed Mindset

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2024 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
W.G. Ramirez
Mar 19, 2024

Natasha Cloud had just finished a preseason practice at Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball when she raced to her car for an introductory press conference.

Flashing her trademark smile, and two braids framing her cheeks from beneath a cap, the nine-year WNBA veteran was elated to be introduced as the newest member of the Phoenix Mercury.

“I’m so excited,” Cloud exclaimed back on Feb. 23.

The excitement hasn’t worn off in the slightest, as the third-year AU veteran said Monday she came into the season feeling rejuvenated with a new chapter in what’s been a storybook career.

“I think I definitely came into this AU season with some fire in me, some fuel behind me,” said Cloud, who signed with the Mercury after eight decorated years with the Washington Mystics. “While that organization and that community meant the world to me, I just feel like God intended this next level for me. And something that I’ve been praying about, is to continue to challenge me within my career.

“This is his next challenge. So I feel like he ripped the band-aid off and he’s moving me with intention and this is about my growth, not only as a player, but as a person, as a leader.”

Cloud, a captain for a third-straight week at AU Pro Basketball, has appeared to compete with the same passion she had in the inaugural AU season after falling off a bit last season.

In 2022, Cloud finished second on the leaderboard with 5,919 points. Last season the charismatic point guard dropped to 13th with 4,723 points.

This year she heads into the final week of the season sitting third with 4,581 points, behind leader Allisha Gray (5,667) and Odyssey Sims (4,812), and is nothing but all smiles as her WNBA career pivots to the Western Conference.

It’s the breath of fresh air the 32-year-old defensive wizard and 2019 WNBA champion needed.

“I still have a lot to give to this game and I still have a lot left to prove to no one other than myself about who I truly am and I want to be able to go into this next chapter with peace and stability,” Cloud said. “I want to be valued and appreciated for what I bring on both ends of the floor from a leadership standpoint, from an activism standpoint, I’m just ready for this next chapter.”

The newest chapter in her biography takes her to an organization that has shown the initiative in investing more than $100 million in a new practice facility for the Mercury and an adjoining downtown headquarters.

It’s the same type of care and investment she’s become proud of in the first three years of Athletes Unlimited, as one of the original signees and pioneers of the league.

“This is everything that I could imagine and more, from bringing another opportunity here for people to play stateside, to protect their bodies, to be around their family,” Cloud said of Athletes Unlimited’s growth. “I would say from year one, it has gotten so much better from an operation standpoint, from a facility standpoint, from a fanbase standpoint, but the one that sticks out to me the most is the elite-level play that is here in year three opposed to what we had in year one.

“No knock on year one, but this has been the hardest year of AU. You don’t get to take a game off. There are no easy games. The level of competition, the level of IQ has gotten so much better progressively every single year, which ultimately makes us better.

“When you’re talking about the protection of the W’s investment, I’m so happy for that partnership too, because we get to play four weeks of elite level of competition with adequate care for our bodies and then we get to go into our training camps prepared for our W season because of the elite level that AU presents to us.”

For Cloud, her reset mental game has refueled her passion in a storybook career set for Act II, in Phoenix.


Saturday 9 pm (ET), Team Sims vs. Team Gray — This might have been the toughest week to pick a top game, so it auto-focuses on the last one of Season 3.

Considering the top two point gatherers — Allisha Gray and Odyssey Sims — will pit their teams against one another for the final game of the campaign, we could have a chase for the championship in this one depending on how Cloud and fourth captain Kierstan Bell perform in their games.

We’ve seen some dandies in the final game each week this season, with Team Gray topping Team Sims, 107-103, in the highest-scoring game of Week One; Team Gray got past Team Mitchell, 115-108, in the highest-scoring game of Week Two; and Team Cloud eke out a 91-87 victory in a surprisingly defensive battle in Week Three.

Don’t be surprised if this week’s final game has all the bells and whistles.


Sims grabbing Isabelle Harrison in the fifth round this week might have been the biggest surprise.

Harrison is listed as active with limited minutes, but after what we saw last week, it’s hard to imagine anyone limiting her when she’s on the floor, as her contributions will be tremendous. Harrison made her season debut in Week Two. She finished sixth on the Week Three leaderboard with 1,367 points in three games. Her presence adds an entirely different dimension to a lineup and could be the piece to the puzzle that aids Sims in her quest for the individual title.


Cindy Brunson and Sheryl Swoopes returned to the AU broadcast booth in Week Three and will take fans through the final horn in Week Four when a champion is crowned. The two helped introduce the world to what was the newest women’s pro basketball league in 2022, while making history by becoming the first women of color as a broadcasting duo to be the primary voices for a professional league in the United States.

Brunson was the first woman of color to become the primary voice for a professional sports league when she handled the play-by-play duties during the inaugural AU Pro Basketball season. Swoopes, a four-time WNBA champion and three-time WNBA MVP, has delivered commentary in three of the four weeks this season.


Bell selected Kelsey Mitchell with the first overall pick, the third time the third-year veteran has been the draft’s top choice in her Athletes Unlimited career. Mitchell ties Gray for the most times being taken as the draft’s top selection in league history.


Sims will serve as a captain for the 11th time in her AU career, including her ninth consecutive week dating back to last season. Sims surpassed Athletes Unlimited Pro Volleyball outside hitter Bethania De La Cruz for the most weeks as a captain in any Athletes Unlimited sport.


Asked whether or not she had taken a look at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket and had a Final Four and championship prediction, Gray, who won the title at South Carolina in 2017, replied: “No, I’m just Gamecocks all the way.”


With an “a” next to their names on the draft board, Harrison, Bashaara Graves, and Akela Maize are listed as active but with limitations.


With an asterisk next to her name, Ruthy Hebard is inactive but was eligible to be drafted (by Bell) and could play if activated by gameday.


Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect that Kelsey Mitchell will be available for all game days this week.


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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