Basketball finalizes roster, facilitators for 2023 season
The group of 44 players set to compete in Season 2 of Athletes Unlimited Basketball is complete.
Newly signed players Veronica Burton, Theresa Plaisance, Kierstan Bell, Jasmine Walker, Lydia Rivers, Hope Elam, and Mya Hollingshed join a group of returners and newcomers who will be a part of the 2023 season from Feb. 23 to March 26 at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, Texas.
The league also announced the group of facilitators for the season, which include Pokey Chatman and Danielle Viglione returning for their second year with the league. Carlos Knox, Zak Buncik, and Seimone Augustus join them in the role that will assist the athletes throughout the season.
With the addition of seven newcomers, 24 athletes are set to compete in the AU format for the first time, while 21 return as AU veterans. Eighteen athletes have WNBA experience, including the newest duo of Las Vegas Aces who won the 2022 WNBA title together.
Plaisance and Bell join the league with recently earned hardware, each winning their first WNBA Championship with the Aces. Plaisance is a nine-year WNBA veteran, drafted by Tulsa in the 2014 WNBA Draft. She spent six seasons with Tulsa/Dallas before a trade to Connecticut and then signed with the Washington Mystics as a free agent. She was recently signed by the Seattle Storm for her 10th WNBA season after playing with the Aces in 2022. In her 218-game career, she has averaged 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds.
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Bell was selected with the No. 11 overall pick by Las Vegas in the 2022 Draft. She appeared in 21 games in her rookie campaign, mostly coming in off the bench, to average 1.3 points. She also competed with Adelaide in the Australian Basketball League. In college, Bell played two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast after transferring from Ohio State. She holds FGCU program records with her 23.6 career scoring average, 23 career double-double games and is one of three players in program history with 100 or more career blocked shots (103).
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Burton is another signee with WNBA experience. She was drafted No. 7 overall by the Wings in 2022. She picked up minutes in six games as a starter across 36 total contests in her rookie year. After finishing up her four-year career at Northwestern, she helped Team USA win Gold at the 2021 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup where she averaged 4.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
She’s one of only four players in Northwestern history to be selected in the WNBA Draft.
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Three additional forwards are included in the final group of signings.
Walker was selected with the No. 7 overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks during the 2021 WNBA Draft. She saw action in two games during her rookie year before her campaign was cut short by a season-ending injury. She bounced back this year to see playing time in 32 games for the Sparks. The Alabama alum was a four-year letter winner after spending her freshman season at Florida State. She finished her time with the Crimson Tide ranked fourth in program history with a .369 career three-point field goal percentage.
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Hollingshed recently played for Dynamo LR in Russia where she averaged 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. She also represented Puerto Rico at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup. The University of Colorado standout was selected with the No. 8 overall pick by the Aces in the 2022 WNBA Draft, becoming the first player in program history to be taken in the first round. She is one of six players in program history with 1,600 career points and 900 career rebounds.
Rivers enters the league with overseas experience after finishing her collegiate career at Virginia Tech. She played in 13 games for Constanta in Liga Nationala where she had five double-double performances. She was a four-year letter winner at Radford as an undergrad.
Elam (She/Her/They/Them) hails from Champaign, Ill. and spent two seasons of her collegiate career with the Hoosiers. Their pro experience includes time spent competing with Gigantes de Carolina of Puerto Rico and Musel Pikes in Luxembourg. They have also played professionally in Iceland, Sweden and Spain.
Meet the facilitators
Pokey Chatman returns for her second season with Athletes Unlimited this year. She brings a breadth of knowledge and a coaching career that spans over three decades. She has spent nine seasons as a WNBA head coach. Most recently, she served as an assistant coach on the Seattle Storm’s staff for their 2022 campaign.
Prior to her career in pro basketball, Chatman spent nearly two decades coaching at her alma mater – Louisiana State University. In four seasons as the Tigers’ head coach, Chatman compiled a 105-19 record with three NCAA Final Four appearances and a pair of Southeastern Conference regular season titles. The consensus selection as the 2005 National Coach of the Year, Chatman earned consecutive Coach of the Year commendations from the Black Coaches Association in 2004 and 2005, and was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2005.
She’s one of just three players in LSU women’s basketball history with 1,000 career points and 500 career assists, Chatman stands third on the Lady Tigers’ all-time ledger with 570 assists and owns a school-record 346 career steals.
Carlos Knox joins AU with 20 years of coaching experience. He enters after finishing the W season as the interim head coach for the Indiana Fever in 2022. A member of the Fever coaching staff for seven seasons, he helped the team to the 2012 WNBA title. Previously, Knox spent three years as an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of North Texas, as well as stints at San Diego State and Cincinnati.
As a player, Knox is the most prolific scorer in Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) history while holding school records for single-game (51), single-season (927), and career (2,556) scoring marks. He also closed his career in 1998 as the program’s all-time leader with a 30.1 career scoring average. He played for the Indiana Pacers during the 1998-99 season, and spent eight years professionally in Croatia, Germany, Venezuela, and Italy.
Seimone Augustus is a four-time WNBA Champion, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time Naismith Player of the Year. Augustus had a 16-year WNBA career (2006-20) after being taken by the Minnesota Lynx as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft. She spent her first 15 seasons with the Lynx before she closed her career with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2020.
She led the Lynx to a WNBA title in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Her accolades in the league include WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2011, eight-time WNBA All-Star and 2006 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She has been named one of the top 25 players in the league’s history.
Like Chatman, Augustus is another Tiger in the facilitator group. She is the second-leading scorer in LSU women’s basketball history and was named the Naismith Player of the Year as a junior and senior along with winning the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Honda Sports Award.
After having her No. 33 jersey retired by LSU in 2010, Augustus became the first female athlete in school history to get a statue in their honor on Jan. 15, 2023. She also had her No. 33 jersey retired by the Minnesota Lynx on May 29, 2022.
Zak Buncik enters his first season as a facilitator after completing his first season as a player development coach for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings. Prior to joining the Wings’ staff, he ran a skills development business where he worked with all levels of basketball players, including several WNBA and NBA players.
He is a 2007 graduate of UT Arlington where he served as a student assistant coach for three years, followed by nine seasons as a member of the men’s basketball staff. He guided the Mavericks to a pair of conference titles (Southland and Sun Belt) along with the championship game of the 2013 Western Athletic Conference and 2018 Sun Belt Conference Tournaments.
As Danielle Viglione returns for another season with AU, she moves into a player development role for the 2023 campaign. The University of Texas alum ranks fifth on the Longhorns’ career list after collecting a 15.8 scoring average over 105 games from 1993-97. She is the school record holder with 293 three-pointers and Viglione is the only player in Texas history with two career 40-point games.
She played one season in the WNBA, competing for the Sacramento Monarchs during their inaugural season in 1997. She went on to play for 10 years overseas, spending time in Israel, Turkey and Italy.
The owner of the Sacramento Skills Academy, Viglione was inducted into the CIF Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Sacramento Hall of Fame in 2015 before earning her spot in the UT Athletics Women’s Hall of Honor in 2019.
CBS Sports Network will broadcast five of the 30 games live, while the remainder of the games can be viewed via the Athletes Unlimited YouTube channel. Select games will be simulcast by the Women’s Sports Network and Bally Sports regional sports networks. The full broadcast schedule is available here and the complete player roster can be found here.
Savanna Collins is the Digital Media Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.
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