Mercedes Russell

44 World-Class Players Set to Compete in Inaugural Basketball Season

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2022 / Credit: Krystina Brown
Athletes Unlimited
Jan 18, 2022
  • WNBA, NCAA star Kelsey Mitchell headlines 31 players added to league
  • WNBA champions Lexie Brown, Mercedes Russell also among newly signed players

Athletes Unlimited Basketball today announced the final 44-player roster for its inaugural season, set to begin January 26 in Las Vegas. WNBA and NCAA standout Kelsey Mitchell (Cincinnati, Ohio) headlines the list of 31 players added to the league, while fellow new signees Lexie Brown (Suwanee, Ga.) and Mercedes Russell (Springfield, Ore.) own a combined three WNBA titles in the last four years. 

In total, the 44 women hail from 18 states and the District of Columbia, and 43 have represented a total of 37 NCAA Division I institutions. Forty-two have spent time in international professional leagues, while 16 have WNBA experience across 97 seasons and six championships. A quarter of the members of Athletes Unlimited Basketball were rostered in the WNBA at the conclusion of the 2021 season. 

Mitchell was second overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft and earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team that year. She has been a top-10 scorer in the WNBA the last two seasons, and was also part of USA Basketball’s National Team Training Pool for 2018-20. She is the most heralded player ever to come out of The Ohio State University, finishing her career as a four-time All-American and the second-highest scorer in NCAA history (3,402 points), while hitting more 3-pointers (497) than any player in women’s college history.

Meanwhile, Lexie Brown is hot off capturing the 2021 WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky in her fourth season in the league. The 2018 Duke University graduate is a three-time All-American – one of four Athletes Unlimited Basketball players who earned that status at least three times. She is joined by fellow WNBA champion Russell, who has won two titles with the Seattle Storm (2018, 2020). The pair join previously signed Essence Carson (Peterson, N.J.), Natasha Cloud (Broomall, Pa.) and Jantel Lavender (Cleveland, Ohio) in having captured WNBA championships. 

Kalani Brown (Slidell, La.) also headlines the group of new players, along with Isabelle Harrison (Nashville, Tenn.) and Imani McGee-Stafford (Los Angeles, Calif.). Following an illustrious college career that included three Elite Eight appearances, the 2019 NCAA title, and finishing as a two-time All-American and Baylor University’s all-time field goal percentage leader (63.9), Brown spent two full seasons in the WNBA before shifting to overseas play in Turkey. Dallas Wings forward Harrison recently wrapped up her fifth WNBA season, having also spent time in San Antonio and Phoenix, while also playing in Poland, South Korea, the Czech Republic and Italy. McGee-Stafford played four seasons in the WNBA before taking the last two seasons off to pursue a law degree.

Becca Wann-Taylor (Chesterfield, Va.) – a two-sport student-athlete from the University of Richmond and All-American soccer player – is one of four players who earned a spot in Athletes Unlimited via the Open Tryouts last month in Atlanta, along with Taj Cole (Richmond, Va.), Briahanna Jackson (Tampa, Fla.) and Takoia Larry (South Bend, Ind.).

Athletes Unlimited Director of Basketball Kristen Miles said: “We are very pleased with the diverse and dynamic Athletes Unlimited Basketball roster for our inaugural season. True to our intentions from the beginning, we are providing an additional opportunity for women to play professional basketball in the U.S., whether on a current roster or not. A whole new breed of women’s pro hoops is soon to be unleashed on Las Vegas, and these incredible athletes will surely make for a historic first season that can’t be missed.”

Mitchell said: “I am honored and thrilled to be part of Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural basketball season. AU offers women another opportunity to play professional basketball in the United States and will provide national television exposure that will help us grow the game we love to play.”

Lexie Brown said: “Athletes Unlimited is another great stage to showcase professional women’s basketball here in the United States and I cannot wait to compete both with and against so many talented players on a weekly basis during our inaugural season in Las Vegas starting January 26.”

Lavender and Tianna Hawkins (Washington, D.C.) were also added as the fourth and fifth members of the Athletes Unlimited Basketball Player Executive Committee alongside Cloud, Sydney Colson (Houston, Texas) and Ty Young (Wilmington, N.C.).

Hawkins said: “I know I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we can’t wait to start playing Athletes Unlimited Basketball. The concept has already been proven in AU’s other three sports, and is going to make for some incredible basketball with super talented players from all over the country.”

Athletes Unlimited Basketball’s first season will take place in Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas, less than two miles from the Las Vegas Strip. Games will be broadcast in the U.S. on either FOX Sports, CBS Sports Network, Bally Sports or Athletes Unlimited digital channels. Additional international media partners will also be added. 

Tickets are available via AUProSports.com.

 

2022 Athletes Unlimited Basketball Roster

Pos. Name Hometown University Current Team
G Ciara Andrews Glenside, Pa. Saint Joseph’s Univ. ‘16
G/F Antoinette Bannister Jacksonville, Fla. East Carolina Univ. ‘17
C Kalani Brown Slidell, La. Baylor Univ. ‘19 Hatayspor (KBSL-TUR)
G Lexie Brown Suwanee, Ga. Duke Univ. ‘18 Chicago Sky (WNBA)
G Kirby Burkholder* Bridgewater, Va. James Madison Univ. ‘14 Santurce (BSNF-PUR)
G Marjorie Butler Knoxville, Tenn. Univ. of Georgia ‘16
G/F DiJonai Carrington San Diego, Calif. Stanford Univ. ‘20⁴ Connecticut Sun (WNBA)
G Essence Carson* Paterson, N.J. Rutgers Univ. ’08
G/F Brittany Carter St. Louis, Mo. Ball State Univ. ‘14⁵ Keltern (DBBL-GER)
G Natasha Cloud* Broomall, Pa. St. Joseph’s Univ. ‘15 Washington Mystics (WNBA)
G Taj Cole Richmond, Va. Univ. of Georgia ‘19¹ Unicaja Málaga (LF2-ESP)
G Sydney Colson* Houston, Texas Texas A&M Univ. ‘11
F Drew Edelman Sunnyvale, Calif. Univ. of Southern California ‘16² Hollywood Wonder (WUBA)
C Nikki Greene Diboll, Texas Penn State Univ. ‘13 Angers (LFB-FRA)
F Kiki Harrigan* Pembroke Pines, Fla. Univ. of South Carolina ‘20 Seattle Storm (WNBA)
G Rebecca Harris Belleville, Ill. Univ. of Illinois ‘08 Dynamo NPU (SuperLeague-UKR)
F Isabelle Harrison Nashville, Tenn. Univ. of Tennessee ‘15 Dallas Wings (WNBA)
F Tianna Hawkins* Washington, D.C. Univ. of Maryland ‘13 Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
G Ariel Hearn Memphis, Tenn. Univ. of Memphis ‘16 Sherbrooke Suns (Big V-AUS)
G Grace Hunter Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina State Univ. ‘20
G Briahanna Jackson Tampa, Fla. Univ. of Louisville ‘17 Club Aztks (LMBPF-MEX)
G/F Meme Jackson Murfreesboro, Tenn. Univ. of Tennessee ‘19 Santurce (BSNF-PUR)
G Tyce Knox* Humble, Texas Texas A&M Univ. ‘17
F Jessica Kuster* San Antonio, Texas Rice Univ. ‘14
F Takoia Larry South Bend, Ind. Texas Wesleyan Univ. ‘14
F Jantel Lavender* Cleveland, Ohio Ohio State Univ. ‘11 Indiana Fever (WNBA)
C Akela Maize Greensboro, N.C. North Carolina State Univ. ‘18 La Glacerie (LF2-FRA)
F Lauren Manis Franklin, Mass. College of the Holy Cross ‘20 Cegledi (NB I/A-HUN)
G/F Danielle L. McCray Boynton Beach, Fla. University of Kansas ‘10 Poznan (EBLK-POL)
F Danielle M. McCray West Palm Beach, Fla. Univ. of Mississippi ‘16 Hannover (DBBL-GER)
C Imani McGee-Stafford Los Angeles, Calif. University of Texas ‘16
G Laurin Mincy* Newark, N.J. Univ. of Maryland ‘15
G Kelsey Mitchell Cincinnati, Ohio Ohio State Univ. ‘18 Indiana Fever (WNBA)
F Chelsea Phillips Long Beach, Calif. Park Univ.  FSV Rijeka (Premijer Liga-CRO)
F Toccara Ross Chicago, Ill. Iowa State Univ. ‘09 Pioneras de Delicias (LBE-MEX)
G Tina Roy Kaplan, La. Univ. of South Carolina ‘16
C Mercedes Russell Springfield, Ore. Univ. of Tennessee ‘18 Seattle Storm (WNBA)
G Odyssey Sims* Irving, Texas Baylor Univ. ‘14 Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
G Antoinette Thompson Fort Worth, Texas Texas Christian Univ. ‘12 Saarlouis (DBBL-GER)
G Destinee Walker Orlando, Fla. Univ. of North Carolina ‘19³ Niki Lefkadas (A1 National-GRE)
G/F Becca Wann-Taylor Chesterfield, Va. Univ. of Richmond ‘14
G Courtney Williams* Folkston, Ga. Univ. of South Florida ‘16 Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
G Dominique Wilson Powder Springs, Ga. North Carolina State Univ. ‘17 Wroclaw (EBLK-POL)
G/F Ty Young* Wilmington, N.C. James Madison Univ. ‘08 Manati (BSNF-PUR)
*Previously announced
¹Played an additional season after graduation at Virginia Tech University
²Played an additional two seasons after graduation at University of California-Santa Barbara
³Played an additional two seasons after graduation at University of Notre Dame
⁴Played an additional season after graduation at Baylor University
⁵Played an additional season after graduation at the University of Illinois

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