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Courtney Williams headlines Athletes Unlimited’s basketball roster expansion

(M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Athletes Unlimited announced the addition of 10 players to its roster for the league’s inaugural basketball season. That group includes five current WNBA players with a combined 47 seasons of experience in Jantel Lavender, Tianna Hawkins, Odyssey Sims, Courtney Williams and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.

“Athletes Unlimited provides American players an additional opportunity to play in the United States, an opportunity we have always hoped for,” said Indiana Fever forward Lavender, a 10-year WNBA veteran who won the 2016 WNBA championship with the Los Angeles Sparks. “Staying in the U.S. allows us to spend more time with our families while earning money and not putting as much wear and tear on our bodies, so that we can put out the best product.”

Lavender said she is looking forward to Athletes Unlimited’s unique format, which awards individual points to players based on stats. Every week during the season, the top four players serve as captains and select new teams.

Hawkins, the Atlanta Dream forward who will enter her ninth WNBA season in 2022, won a WNBA title with the Washington Mystics in 2019. She’ll be joined by Sims and Williams, her teammates with the Dream in 2021.

Williams made headlines in October after a video surfaced showing an altercation outside of an Atlanta club in May that involved Williams and teammate Crystal Bradford. The Dream later said they would not be re-signing either player.

“I would never want to represent myself or the organization in a negative way,” Williams wrote on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet. “I’m learning everyday so I ask for grace as I’m growing. Again I apologize to all attached, and I will be better moving forward.”

New Dream general manager Dan Padover later confirmed that the players — free agents in 2022 — would not return to Atlanta.

Seattle Storm forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who took time off last season to give birth, will also join the league along with 2016 WNBA champion and 13-year WNBA veteran Essence Carson. Kirby Burkholder, Tyce Knox, Jessica Kuster and Laurin Mincy, who have spent significant amounts of time playing overseas, round out the group.

The season will run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26, 2022 in Las Vegas.

“Ever since the announcement about Athletes Unlimited basketball, the feedback has been nothing but positive which is great,” said Sydney Colson, the first player to sign on for the season. “Knowing that we’ll be playing in Las Vegas took it up a few more notches! The Vegas fan base was so incredible when I played there and I can’t wait to see familiar faces as well as new fans in the stands at all of our games!”

Athletes Unlimited will hold open tryouts from Dec. 11-12 in Atlanta, where at least one roster spot will be offered to an athlete who attends.