Air Hearn drives to the net.

Air Hearn Savoring Second Swim Through AU Waters

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Stephen Hunt
Mar 13, 2023

Air Hearn is no stranger to Athletes Unlimited Basketball. Last season, the 2014 first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection at Memphis finished 15th overall with 3,861 points. Hearn’s 19 steals ranked ninth in AU as she averaged 7.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

However, she has raised the bar for year two. “My mindset is to be stronger. I’ve come into season two with a lot more confidence. That makes me feel good,” Hearn said. “Being with Athletes Unlimited is a blessing. It’s a blessing to know they enjoyed me not only as a person but as a player. That meant a lot they invited me back for season two.”

This season, Hearn is playing for the Trauma Institute and Children’s Trauma Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 to promote healing and healthy development for children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma and loss, and to develop, evaluate, and disseminate effective prevention, assessment, and treatment methods. 

“I’m a big believer that everything starts with the mind. A person becomes who they are depending on how they respond to what happens in life,” Hearn said. “It’s just important to me that 1) mentally, people are healthy and 2) that trauma is real. People go through real things, and it makes people who they are because of how they bounce back from the uncontrollable. To play for those people, the mental side of the game, mental happiness, it means a lot.”

During her time at Memphis (2012 to 2016), she was known as Ariel Hearn. However, while playing overseas in Iceland, a teammate would repeatedly butcher her name, so she told her to simply call her “Air”. It immediately stuck. 

“Well, I’ve had the name Air for myself since years ago, but when I said [my name was] Air, people didn’t believe in it. It never stuck,” Hearn said. “That was in 2020 in Iceland when one of my teammates started calling me Air. It kind of stuck. I guess it’s me having more confidence when people ask me who I am, and I tell them Air. They ask me why [Air is my name] and I just feel more confident when I talk about it.”

Besides Iceland, she has also played in Australia and Germany, stints abroad she wouldn’t trade for anything because of the multitude of great experiences she had on and off the court and the amazing people she met. “My experiences abroad were pretty positive. I did make a huge impact on the court, but I think off the court is what a lot of people can’t see. I think that’s where I made my biggest impact,” Hearn said. 

“Every country that I went to (Germany, Iceland, Australia), I can truly say that I’ve gained family, just the people I was able to connect with, the teammates, the families. It’s always good to keep in contact with those people. Being abroad, it’s a different world but I love it. It broadened my personal palette.”

Speaking of her palette, Hearn admits she ate very healthy while playing overseas but consumed plenty of potatoes, sausage, and bread while in Germany. While in Iceland, she ate plenty of seafood. Her cuisine of choice in Australia was Greek since the teammate who she was living with was from Greece. “I was able to eat a lot of Greek food, which I really enjoyed,” she said. “Really love Greek food. They love to eat.”

Another interesting fact about Hearn is that her birthday is April 1st or April Fool’s Day, something she truly celebrates. “It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind thing. I always try to get my own joke in on my birthday, but it’s hard,” she joked. “I love having an April Fool’s birthday. The people that know me say it definitely fits with my personality.”

Hearn also takes immense pride in her Memphis roots, both because it is a great basketball city and a truly unique place to call home. “When people outside of Memphis hear about Memphis, sometimes I think they get a negative perception. When they hear my perspective about Memphis because I grew up there, people change their perceptions,” she said. 

“When I am able to tell people I am from Memphis and they experience me as a person, it is a joy for me to hear people say, ‘She makes me want to travel to Memphis to see what it’s like.’ That just brings me joy. I love that Memphis is a basketball city. I love that there’s just so much hospitality there. Basketball just brings so many people together, I love it. Memphis is definitely home. It will always be home in my heart. Memphis is just one-of-a-kind.”


Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.

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