Starting Five: Names catching our attention from Week 1 of Athletes Unlimited

Photo Credit: Jade Hewitt/Athletes Unlimited

The point on the calendar that sees February transition into March is a big one on the women’s basketball calendar. That includes the start of the 2024 Athletes Unlimited basketball season which once again is calling Dallas, Texas its home court. 

Athletes Unlimited has been a useful resource in the past for getting players onto rosters and more roster spots will, of course, open up with the WNBA expanding to a 13th team in the San Francisco Bay Area beginning next year. 

Week one of play is in the book with Week 2 commencing in a few days. Here are a few names that so far have caught our attention. 

Allisha Gray began this year’s rendition of Athletes Unlimited as one of four team captains in addition to Tiffany Mitchell, Odyssey Sims and Lexie Hull. 

Every team has played three games so far at Athletes Unlimited and Team Gray’s team concluded the first week without any blemishes to its record. 

Two of those games were close victories as well – a 94-91 win over Team Mitchell to begin this year’s Athletes Unlimited and it was followed up with a 107-103 dispatching of Team Sims to run its record to 3-0. 

Gray is currently the overall leader with over 2,000 competition points racked up. One can see through her play throughout the first week of Athletes Unlimited why she is such an asset to an Atlanta Dream assembling whose goal is to win a first-round postseason series in 2024. 

Sims is no stranger to balling out when some of women’s basketball’s premier talents bring said talents to Athletes Unlimited. 

At all three renditions of the February/March get-together Sims has been one of the team captains. Team Sims began this year’s Athletes Unlimited with a pair of victories prior to the recent defeat her team encountered at the hands of Team Gray. 

Even though the performance against Team Gray happened in a losing effort, Sims still put up big numbers. While the 22 points she scored will get the lion’s share of attention, one must not overlook that she also dished out 16 assists which was a game-high for that contest. She also finished with 33 points in the 94-91 win over Team Mitchell. 

Sims is always one of those players that around the time of Athletes Unlimited proves herself worthy of being on a WNBA roster. That is once again proving true this time around as Sims has had her balling shoes on in her native Texas. 

Engstler was a microcosm last year for why earning one of the 144 (soon to be 156) WNBA roster spots is so difficult. 

The Fever cut Engstler after selecting her fourth in 2022. Then she was cut from the Minnesota Lynx after signing a hardship contract. 

Last month, Engstler was signed to a training camp contact with a Washington Mystics team that will likely be rebuilding for next few seasons with Elena Delle Donne’s future with the team in doubt. So far, Engstler has resembled someone more deserving of permanent roster love. 

Engstler has been a massive reason why Team Gray began this year’s competition 3-0 – on both ends of the floor. 

Making a statement indeed. 

The first week of Athletes Unlimited saw Team Gray get in the win column on plenty of occasions. The play we saw from Bulgak was a big reason for that. 

In that high-scoring contest between Team Gray and Team Sims where both squads crossed the century mark, Bulgak made a difference by placing 13 points on the board while finding success both close to the rim and in the midrange game.

We forget sometimes that Bulgak, while not a much-ballyhooed veteran is still a veteran. Bulgak unquestionably played like it throughout the first week of Athletes Unlimited.

Bulgak was a selection of Team (Natasha Cloud) for the upcoming slate of games. 

New Jersey’s very own is another name that has made women’s basketball fans remember how talented she is. 

Muldrow played her college ball at West Virginia before stints with the Seattle Storm and Dallas Wings in the WNBA. Her career has since taken her to the overseas ranks. 

That she has been – including in the opening game for Team Gray vs. Team Hull where she scored 10 points to lift said team to its first victory of this year’s competition.

Muldrow was a selection of Team Mitchell for Week Two.