Natasha Cloud and Evina Westbrook to play in Athletes Unlimited


A year ago, Natasha Cloud regained her love for basketball when playing with the upstart Athletes Unlimited basketball league. Now, she is suiting up once again for the second season and will have Washington Mystics' teammate Evina Westbrook joining her. 

The two Mystics were announced as a part of the athlete pool on Thursday. There are only 44 spots available and after the success of the inaugural season, it's expected to be even more competitive to join the league this year.

Athletes Unlimited is a unique change when it comes to competition. It is team-based but rooted in highlighting individual players. The four teams - last year called Blue, Orange, Gold and Purple - re-shuffle their rosters every week. Rosters are chosen by captains who were the top four players. However, the overall scoring and champion is on an individual level. Points can be won and lost by individual and team performance.

Think of it as fantasy scoring on pick-up teams and an individual scoreboard instead of standings.

Last year, Washington Mystic Tianna Hawkins was named the champion with 6,836 points. She quickly rose to be the top player in the league and was named captain three times. It was a rare showcase for Hawkins who has been a role player in the WNBA for several seasons. 

Cloud was the second-place medalist with 5,919 points.

For Westbrook, it is her first year playing in the league. Last week, she signed a WNBA training camp contract with Washington after playing six games as a mid-season pickup.


Athletes Unlimited - also referred to as 'AU' - is another American option for professional women's basketball players to make money without traveling overseas. Basketball was the fourth sport added to the AU menu, following volleyball, lacrosse and softball.

Related: Finally, an off season for Ariel Atkins

Prior to AU, the only legitimate option for many WNBA athletes to make a living in the offseason was to go play internationally. And if you're not one of the top 144 players in the United States, there are no minor leagues for other American players to play.

Cloud and Westbrook are just the latest Mystics players to find off-season professional opportunities. Shakira Austin and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough are both playing in Israel. Rui Machida is back in her native Japan playing with her Fujitsu Red Wave team. Hawkins is playing in Australia this year.

The entire AU season is scheduled to wrap up before the WNBA Draft and the start of training camp.