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Tianna Hawkins enters Week 3 of Athletes Unlimited basketball as the points leader after a dominant second week in which she rose 14 spots up the leaderboard. As for the other three captains this week, Lexie Brown will look to continue her undefeated streak, while Natasha Cloud and Isabelle Harrison attempt to find some balance.
With games resuming Wednesday, here are three storylines to look out for in Week 3.
In the second game against Team Russell last week, Hawkins set a single-game scoring record with 38 points, helping Team Brown to a 98-85 victory. Roughly 24 hours later, she outdid herself, recording 46 points on 20-of-27 shooting from the field. She added 10 rebounds to claim her second MVP 1 honors of the week and lead Team Brown to a 3-0 record.
“It’s just having the hot hand and my teammates did a good job of feeding me the ball both tonight and last night,” Hawkins said.
It was a turnaround from Week 1, in which Hawkins averaged 15.3 points per game. In addition to vaulting from 14th on the AU leaderboard to first, she now leads the league with 25.2 points per game and is pulling down 8.2 rebounds per game.
But Hawkins’ basketball savvy will be put to the test this week. The lone new captain in Week 3, she will need to prove she can put together a good team to remain the league leader. Outside of standout individual performances, AU places emphasis on team wins, giving out 50 points per quarters won and 100 points per games won.
There’s evidence that she may have done so when drafting her roster on Sunday. Destinee Walker set a single-quarter scoring record this season with 18 points, while Jessica Kuster is well-rounded and currently shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range. Hawkins also selected veteran Sydney Colson and former captain Mercedes Russell, who currently sits seventh on the leaderboard. Hawkins will have to rely on them as much as herself if she wants to make a splash in Week 3.
Throughout Week 2 of the AU season, Lexie Brown showed that not only can she hoop, but she also might just have a career as a general manager one day.
I know it was only a week, but I truly have a future in being a GM 😂🤗— Lexie Brown (@Lexiebrown) February 6, 2022
Not many expected the performance that Team Brown turned out in Week 2, but Brown was confident in her team’s abilities from the jump. The squad found a balance that worked for them and helped them go undefeated on the week.
“I drafted them for that exact reason,” Brown said last week. “I played with a team that we were super big, I played with a team that we were kind of big, but I didn’t really have any pick-and-pop players, and I think I play best with that with the attention I draw, to be able to kick out to the shooters. And they just have to have confidence to knock it down.”
Brown will look to repeat that performances in Week 3 with a new team. With eight of 11 players on her roster sitting inside of the top 25 on the individual leaderboard, there will be no shortage of talent.
Team Brown will have to contend with the duo of Natasha Cloud and DiJonai Carrington, who have developed strong chemistry through the first two weeks of the season. Team Cloud has also added Essence Carson, who is averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 50.8 percent.
Isabelle Harrison will return as a captain this week after going 5-1 through the first two weeks. Notably, she drafted Ty Young and held onto Courtney Williams and Odyssey Sims.
Will this be the week that Taj Cole vaults into a captain position? The guard amassed 1,064 points in Week 2 to hold onto the No. 5 spot on the leaderboard.
One of four athletes picked up during the Athletes Unlimited tryouts in Atlanta, Cole has already made a splash in AU. Through the first week of play, she averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists per game. Last week, the Connecticut Sun signed her to a training camp contract, indicating that AU can serve as a showcase for WNBA teams looking for roster depth.
Opportunity: Secured ✅— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) February 2, 2022
After an impressive @AUProSports debut, @TCOLE_0 will be heading to the @ConnecticutSun this season on a training camp contract, sources tell @RachGall. pic.twitter.com/Gup1xoWly5
Cole followed up Week 1 with an equally productive Week 2, scoring 23 points against Team Russell and dishing out a game-high 12 assists against Team Cloud. Brown and Cole have been a dynamic duo this season, so it came as no surprise that Brown drafted Cole with her first pick on Sunday.
Cole sits 333 points behind Harrison for the fourth and final captain spot, but making the jump is not entirely out of the question. The AU format rewards good performances and consistency, and Cole brings both.
Emma Hruby is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.
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