Storylines to follow after AU Hoops
While inaugural Hoops season has come to an end, there are storylines to keep an eye on as the year continues and players, and facilitators, get ready for the rest of their years.
Will Lexie Brown play during the 2022 WNBA season?
WNBA champion Lexie Brown finished the inaugural Athletes Unlimited season a medalist, ranking fourth overall on the leaderboard with 5,317 points.
Brown was also named to AU’s first-ever All-Defensive team alongside Nikki Greene, Isabelle Harrison, Lauren Manis and DiJonai Carrington.
The recognition highlights Brown’s growth throughout the season both in defensive and offensive efficiency.
As the AU season concludes, the biggest question is where will Brown play for the 2022 WNBA season?
The restricted free agent received a qualifying offer from the Chicago Sky, to return to the franchise on a one-year veteran minimum deal of $72,141 according to HerHoopStats.
Right now the Sky only have $70,166 left in cap space for their final roster spot, after re-signing their core players in free agency.
Brown has yet to accept the offer from the Sky, a sign that her future with the franchise is questionable.
During her time at AU she’s proven that she can be an asset on any team if given the right opportunity.
The versatile two-way guard started in all 15 games of the season and was selected as a team captain for three-out-of-five weeks, ending with an 8-7 win record, individually. She averaged 14 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals this season.
The former Duke guard has played for the Connecticut Sun, Minnesota Lynx, and Chicago in the last four seasons.
Brown, 27, could provide a spark off the bench for a WNBA franchise looking for a playmaking guard who has the ability to facilitate an offense and score. She has displayed a willingness to adapt and adjust her game to fit into different systems, and to accept a lesser role within a winning organization during her time with the Sky.
AU facilitator Pokey Chatman returns to WNBA; joins Seattle Storm coaching staff
Prior to the start of the inaugural Athletes Unlimited season, the Seattle Storm announced that longtime WNBA coach Pokey Chatman would be joining their coaching staff alongside Ebony Hoffman and head coach Noelle Quinn as an assistant.
.@pokeychatman on being named an assistant coach for the @seattlestorm.
“I’m excited to join Noelle’s staff and that storied program that’s been a leader in so many areas. It’s almost like Christmas in January for me. So I’m excited to get back.”#BeUnlimited | #AUHoops | pic.twitter.com/on9NNoWeoM
— Khristina Williams (@Khristina) January 28, 2022
Chatman’s previous stint in the WNBA included coaching the Chicago Sky for six seasons, where she led the team to the 2014 finals, and the Indiana Fever for three seasons.
Highly regarded for her ability to recruit and develop players paired with three decades of coaching experience, Chatman joining the Storm coaching staff makes sense as the franchise aims to win another title, while also preparing for a post-Sue Bird era after the 2022 season.
The Storm also announced the signing of Athletes Unlimited forward Lauren Manis to a training camp contract. Manis, who earned a spot on AU’s All-Defensive team, joins AU athletes Mercedes Russell and Kiki Harrigan.
As an Athletes Unlimited facilitator, Chatman finished the season with a 6-9 record.
KALANI BROWN’s WNBA opportunity with Las Vegas Aces
In the first week of the season, center Kalani Brown put everyone on notice by telling them not to count her out as she eyed a return to the WNBA.
The 6-foot-7 center leveraged the opportunity to play for Athletes Unlimited, which resulted in her signing a training camp contract with the Las Vegas Aces.
Through five weeks at AU, she averaged 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds, finishing No. 5 overall on the leaderboard with 5,192 points.
Brown’s opportunity with the Aces comes after center Liz Cambage announced she was going to the Los Angeles Sparks in free agency.
A true post-player, Brown’s dominance in the paint paired with her elite footwork is sure to be a problem for any defender. During a live AU broadcast, she also revealed that she lost more than 40 lbs. to prepare for the season, which is evident in how much quicker she moved on the floor. Brown is also shooting more efficiently, revealing AU champion Tianna Hawkins is a vet who has helped her.
"This is a great squad of girls… I'm going to miss them a lot." – @kalanibrown21
Hear from Kalani Brown after her final #AUHoops game of the season 🏀
🎙: @savannaecollins pic.twitter.com/3WNL2qAeE6
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) February 27, 2022
Now the former Baylor star and NCAA champion looks to compete at training camp to secure a spot on Becky Hammon’s Aces squad.
Don’t sleep on her.
Former Dream players Courtney Williams and Tianna Hawkins return to respective 2019 WNBA teams for the 2022 season
Former Atlanta Dream teammates Courtney Williams and Tianna Hawkins are both getting a fresh start on new teams after being told that they would not return to the franchise for the 2022 WNBA season.
Williams returns to the Connecticut Sun an All-Star, and now has a second chance to prove herself, after being dismissed from the Dream and given a two-game suspension by the WNBA following an off-court incident last May.
Missing the first week of Athletes Unlimited due to health and safety protocol, Williams still managed to complete the season ranked in the top ten, finishing at No.9 overall with 4,461 points.
The Sun have not returned to the WNBA finals since Williams’ departure in 2019. However, now that she’s back, they have a chance to win it all. A dynamic two-way guard, her ability to play off the ball and create her own shot, is just the energy the Sun needs off the bench.
In her previous three seasons with the Sun, Williams played 98 games and averaged 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, three assists and 0.9 steals in 27.4 minutes per game.
Her time at AU has also given her the opportunity to get acquainted with her new teammates in DiJonai Carrington and Taj Cole, who received a training camp contract with the franchise.
The Sun finished the WNBA regular season with a 26-6 record last year, and reached the WNBA semifinals.
Hawkins rejoined the Washington Mystics during WNBA free agency, a team she helped lead to its first-ever championship in 2019.
On Saturday, she added more hardware to her collection after being named the inaugural AU Hoops champion, in a triple overtime win against Mystics teammate Natasha Cloud. Hawkins finished the season first overall on the leaderboard with 6,836 points.
Hawkins led the league in rebounds (166) and ranked second in points (357). She averaged 23.8 points and 23.8 rebounds.
"This moment right here, can't nobody take this from me." @t_hawk21 paved her own way to the 🥇
We can assure you that victory tastes sweeter with hard work put in ❤️ pic.twitter.com/CvMePWqqjh
— Athletes Unlimited (@AUProSports) February 27, 2022
Her return to the Mystics is fitting, as she is already familiar with head coach Mike Thibault’s system and could provide rebounding and scoring off the bench.
Recap: Gray, Hillmon lead Team Hillmon to commanding win over Team Sims
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Krystina Brown
Cole sets focus on Season 2: 'I'm ready to work harder than I ever have'
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2022 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
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