HEWITT, Texas – After both Baylor Basketball teams’ NCAA tournament runs end, the Waco area will welcome another basketball team – a team of professionals, and most of all, dreamers.
The Waco Royals will begin play next month in The Basketball League (TBL) – a professional league consisting of 35 teams from around the country.
For Waco native and team founder Brandon Littles, whose dream it is to own and operate a professional basketball team, he is looking to capitalize on the success of both Baylor programs to show off the city’s basketball culture.
“I want Waco to be that basketball Mecca,” Littles said.
When Littles had the chance to start a franchise, there was only one destination in mind.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Littles said. “This is where I was raised. This is where I was born. And so, I always wanted to be able to do something like this for the city.”
The Basketball League gives an opportunity to players to play against NBA-caliber competition without having to go overseas like so many professionals do.
“As a kid you always dream, ‘Oh, I’m going to make it to the NBA.’ Then reality hits, and it’s like, ‘What’s the next option?,'” Royals guard Marvin White said. “You go to college and you play, then you go see if you want to go overseas, and then you get down on yourself. But now that the TBL has given the opportunity to bring professionalism inside the states where you don’t have to travel, I think that’s very good.”
The league features players who have played in both the NBA and the G-League (the NBA’s developmental league), but the Royals come from all over.
Josh Williams droved six hours from Texarkana on the day of the team’s tryouts after not having played in a competitive game in seven years. He says he just wants to be a part of what they are building in Waco.
“I’m just excited to be part of a team again,” Williams said. “I’m excited that we have a group of great guys and great staff, and just that we’re going to use this as bigger than basketball, and just to help the community.”
Deontrei Brown has come even farther. Brown hails from rural Mississippi, but basketball has brought him to Florida, Oklahoma, and now Texas. In all that time though, he has not played in a competitive game.
After not playing for his junior high or high school teams, Brown tried his hand at community college. After practicing with teams at two colleges he walked onto, but not being academically eligible to play, he met Littles and was inspired to try out for the team.
When the Royals take the court next month, he will make the jump from the playground to the pros.
“Being able to teach my story alone is something that is inspirational,” Brown said. “I’ve always seen myself as being able to inspire kids and actually seeing them happy and say, ‘Hey, no matter what you go through, whatever happens, it’s still a possibility.”
For Littles and the players, the team is all about community first.
“The Royals is about community,” Brown said. “They’re creating a platform for kids and for players like me who didn’t have the best opportunities.”
The Royals open their season April 9th, and will play their home games at the Legends Sports Complex in Hewitt.