WACO, TX — Get ready Waco! For the first time, there is a professional basketball team ready to represent the community on and off the court.
The Waco Royals, founded by two local brothers, says this is their way of giving back while doing what they love most, basketball.
"And then one day, Brandon calls me and says, 'hey, we're going to buy a basketball team,' and I said really?" said Akeem Stroupe, Waco Royals team president.
It was an idea in the middle of the pandemic followed by hard work from both siblings Brandon Littles and Akeem Stroupe.
"I want to do something amazing for my community, for my people," said team market owner and player of Waco Royals, Brandon Littles.
In August of 2020, they were officially a professional basketball team, the Waco Royals, under TBL known as The Basketball League.
Stroupe says, "the goal of the TBL is to bridge the gap between the players who make nothing and the players in the NBA. So, a guy can play and make a living and stay right here with his family in the states."
Scouting for the right players took them to major cities like Austin and Dallas.
Currently, 28 players are trying out hoping to make the final cut.
Ernest Carter is currently trying out for the Waco Royals, "I was cut in high school and that made me become a good player, so I went on to college and did that and I have the opportunity to play here now."
The players are from different states, like William Benjamin, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. For him, the chance to play without leaving the country is a huge opportunity.
"New is always good and being able to play in the states and not go overseas and make money, that is awesome," says Benjamin.
Baylor University alum, Mamadou Diene, is the head coach and plans to lead the Waco Royals to the top.
Stroupe says to reach their full potential, the players must have the right character, " and that they will not only give the fans something to enjoy when they watch but that they also give the people of Waco something to get behind because we will show support."
For the Waco Royals, this is only the beginning of a long and exciting journey ahead.
"I want to build a legacy and I want this to be something that will big for the city of Waco for years to come," said Littles.
The TBL season kicks off in two months. While tryouts happened in August, the official players for the team will be announced in March.