Athletes Unlimited announces 2nd women's pro hoops season

The Athletes Unlimited professional women's basketball league announced Tuesday that its second season will be held from Feb. 22 to March 26, 2023.

All 30 games will be played at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, which also will be host to the NCAA women's Final Four at American Airlines Center on March 31-April 2.

The league launched in February 2022, with all games played in Las Vegas. The league serves as a United States-based alternative for players to overseas leagues. With the WNBA tightening its rules about requirements for players to report on time to league training camps this coming season and the ongoing incarceration of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner in Russia, the issue of overseas play has become more complex.

Athletes Unlimited, which also has single-city women's leagues in softball, volleyball and lacrosse, currently has 31 women's basketball players signed for the 2023 season. That includes Dallas Wings standout Allisha Gray, a 3x3 Olympic gold medalist, and the Indiana Fever's NaLyssa Smith, who was the No. 2 draft pick in 2022 and was on the WNBA's all-rookie team this past season.

Smith said she became familiar with AU while she was a senior last season, and she thought it would be a good option rather than going overseas.

"I knew I needed a break," Smith said of not wanting to go directly from the WNBA season to another league. "With AU, I'll still be able to play in the WNBA's off-season, but I'll get some rest before that. The exciting part is I know my game is going to continue to grow a lot."

The AU league has a unique format: players earn points based on both team wins and individual performance. The teams change each week, as the top four players in the standings serve as captains and draft their teams. At the end of the five-week season, the player with the most points is crowned as individual champion. Last year, Tianna Hawkins was the individual champion, followed by Lexie Brown, Natasha Cloud and Isabelle Harrison in the standings. All competed in the WNBA this past season.

Cloud, of the Washington Mystics, and Brown, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Sparks and is currently a free agent, are both signed for the upcoming AU season. Among other players who have committed to AU are the Indiana Fever's Kelsey Mitchell; Courtney Williams, Odyssey Sims and DiJonai Carrington, who played for the WNBA Finals runner-up Connecticut Sun, and Sydney Colson, who played for the WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces.

Games will be televised on CBS Sports Network and streamed.