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Kelsey Mitchell, Lexie Brown lead AU Basketball’s 44-player roster

Kelsey Mitchell is one of 44 players who will play in the inaugural season of AU basketball. (David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Athletes Unlimited has confirmed the 44-player roster for its inaugural basketball season, with Kelsey Mitchell, Lexie Brown and Mercedes Russell among the final additions. The season is set to tip off Jan. 26 in Las Vegas.

Mitchell, the Indiana Fever’s leading scorer last season, earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft. Since then, she’s continued to elevate her game, finishing among the WNBA’s top-10 scorers each of the last two seasons. Before turning pro, the guard had a prolific career at Ohio State, graduating with the second-highest points (3,402) and most 3-pointers made (497) in NCAA history.

“I am honored and thrilled to be part of Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural basketball season,” Mitchell said. “AU offers women another opportunity to play professional basketball in the United States and will provide national television exposure that will help us grow the game we love to play.”

Brown and Russell join the league with a combined three WNBA titles in the last four years. Brown is a member of the 2021 WNBA champion Chicago Sky, while Russell won championships with the Seattle Storm in 2018 and 2020. AU players Essence Carson, Natasha Cloud and Jantel Lavender have also won WNBA championships.

“Athletes Unlimited is another great stage to showcase professional women’s basketball here in the United States and I cannot wait to compete both with and against so many talented players on a weekly basis during our inaugural season in Las Vegas starting January 26,” Brown said.

Imani McGee-Stafford announced her inclusion on the roster over the weekend. The 27-year-old center played four seasons in the WNBA from 2016-19 before taking the last two years off to attend law school.

The 31 players added to the roster on Tuesday join 10 who were previously announced, notably Courtney Williams and WNBA veterans Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Carson.

Four players earned spots through the open tryouts in Atlanta in December. Becca Wann-Taylor will get an opportunity out of the University of Richmond, where she was a two-sport athlete in basketball and soccer. Joining her are Taj Cole, Briahanna Jackson and Takola Larry.

“We are very pleased with the diverse and dynamic Athletes Unlimited Basketball roster for our inaugural season,” said AU Director of Basketball Kristen Miles. “True to our intentions from the beginning, we are providing an additional opportunity for women to play professional basketball in the U.S., whether on a current roster or not. A whole new breed of women’s pro hoops is soon to be unleashed on Las Vegas, and these incredible athletes will surely make for a historic first season that can’t be missed.”

AU players Lavender and Tianna Hawkins will also serve on the player executive committee as the fourth and fifth members alongside Cloud, Sydney Colson and Ty Young.

The four-week basketball season runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26.

Full roster

  • Ciara Andrews, G
  • Antoinette Bannister, G/F
  • Kalani Brown, C
  • Lexie Brown, G
  • Kirby Burkholder, G
  • Marjorie Butler, G
  • DiJonai Carrington, G/F
  • Essence Carson, G
  • Brittany Carter, G/F
  • Natasha Cloud, G
  • Taj Cole, G
  • Sydney Colson, G
  • Drew Edelman, F
  • Nikki Greene, C
  • Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, F
  • Rebecca Harris, G
  • Isabelle Harrison, F
  • Tianna Hawkins, F
  • Ariel Hearn, G
  • Grace Hunter, G
  • Briahanna Jackson, G
  • Meme Jackson, G/F
  • Tyce Knox, G
  • Jessica Kuster, F
  • Takoia Larry, F
  • Jantel Lavender, F
  • Akela Maize, C
  • Lauren Manis, F
  • Danielle L. McCray, G/F
  • Danielle M. McCray, F
  • Imani McGee-Stafford
  • Laurin Mincy, G
  • Kelsey Mitchell, G
  • Chelsea Phillips, F
  • Toccara Ross, F
  • Tina Roy, G
  • Mercedes Russell, C
  • Odyssey Sims, G
  • Antoinette Thompson, G
  • Destinee Walker, G
  • Becca Wann-Tayor, G/F
  • Courtney Williams, G
  • Dominique Wilson, G
  • Ty Young, G/F

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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