Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell, two-time WNBA champion Mercedes Russell of the Seattle Storm, and guard Lexie Brown, who played for the champion Chicago Sky last season, lead a group of 11 WNBA players who will compete in Athletes Unlimited Basketball, which starts play Jan. 26.
The women's professional league announced its 44-player roster Tuesday, headlined by Mitchell, the former Ohio State star who was the No. 2 draft pick in 2018 and is second on the Division I women's basketball all-time scoring list.
Other WNBA players who will play in the AU league are guard DiJonai Carrington (Connecticut Sun), guard Natasha Cloud (Washington Mystics), forward Kiki Herbert Harrigan (Seattle Storm), forward Isabelle Harrison (Dallas Wings), forward Tianna Hawkins (recently waived by Atlanta Dream), forward/center Jantel Lavender (Indiana Fever), guard Odyssey Sims (Atlanta Dream) and guard Courtney Williams (free agent, played last season with Atlanta Dream).
Several other players aren't currently in the WNBA but have played in the league, including center Kalani Brown, guard Essence Carson, guard Sydney Colson, guard/forward Danielle McCray, center Imani Stafford-McGee and guard/forward Ty Young. Carson won a WNBA title with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.
"We are very pleased with the diverse and dynamic Athletes Unlimited Basketball roster for our inaugural season," Kristen Miles, Athletes Unlimited director of basketball, said in a statement. "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."
Athletes Unlimited has a unique format where all games are played in one city in a compact season. For basketball, it will be Jan. 26-Feb. 26. The organization also runs women's softball, lacrosse and volleyball leagues.
There are no owners, general managers or specific teams in Athletes Unlimited. Instead, the players start on four different teams that wear uniforms of different colors and have assigned captains. Players compile points based on their teams' results and their individual statistics. At the end of each week, the top four players in the points standings become captains and repick their teams.
At the end of the season, there is an overall points winner.
Games will be played at Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas, and will be broadcast on the Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, Bally Sports or AU digital channels.
The league doesn't conflict with the WNBA, which has a summer-based season starting in May. Most WNBA players have played overseas in the winter months since that league launched in 1997. The AU league is not expected to compete with the higher salaries of the top overseas leagues in European and Asian countries. But AU can be an alternative for players who would prefer to spend the winter in the United States.