Another professional sports team will soon call Frederick home.
The Basketball League, an independent pro league that spans nearly 50 teams across the United States and Canada, announced Tuesday the addition of a team in Frederick that will begin play in 2024. The announcement came at Hood College’s BB&T Arena, where the team will play its home games.
“We want to create an entertainment option for the people in Frederick County where whatever age you are. … You can come to a game and see good basketball,” co-owner Michael Witt said. “Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, you can have an enjoyable evening or afternoon being entertained.”
The team is the brainchild of Witt and Tony Mazlish, two Bethesda-based businessmen who met more than 30 years ago in pickup basketball leagues and bonded over their love of the game.
With both recently selling their businesses, the pair wanted a way to stay involved in a community and share the game of basketball. In June 2022, Mazlish read an ESPN article about a TBL player who saved a referee’s life during a game, which led to him doing further research on the league and determining it was the right level for owning a team.
He met with Witt that September to discuss their investment, and the pair considered locations across the Washington, D.C., metro area before settling on Frederick.
“We liked the idea of setting this up in an area where there was a separate community, where there was its own identity,” Witt said. “It’s growing, feels very vibrant, has its own personality and it’s separate.”
It’s the exact kind of small-to-medium-size market TBL targets.
TBL fashions itself as a third-tier pro league, behind the NBA’s developmental league and roughly equivalent to the middle levels of European basketball. It’s comprised of players right out of college looking for a chance to make the jump to a higher league and veterans seeking to continue playing basketball in the United States.
The season runs from March to June, and Frederick will play 24 regular season games as part of the East Conference, with potentially up to 12 playoff games.
The team will be led by Ed Corporal, the winningest head coach in TBL’s six-year history, and has already signed five players with professional experience both in this league and overseas: Tavares Sledge (who played in college at Wright State and USC Aiken), Charlie Marquardt (Molloy), Tevin Foster (Abilene Christian), Quantel Denson (Hutchinson Community College) and Lyle Hexom (Peru State).
Though none of those players are from the area, Frederick general manager Chris Jenkins said the team hopes to ink Frederick County players to the squad via a series of tryouts that will fill the rest of the roster.
“We definitely want some local flavor, some Frederick flavor,” Jenkins, a Frederick resident, said. “There’s obviously been some guys that have been thrown our way and guys we have in mind, but we have to make sure everything plays out right.”
Eventually, Mazlish said he and Witt would like to recruit local investors to join them, with the hope that they pass along the team to a Frederick-based owner down the line.
It’s part of the community-focused plan they have to get the team operational, which includes a naming contest and partnerships with area nonprofits. Mazlish likened their approach to a three-legged stool, in which they hope to build a strong community, entertainment and basketball product.
“We’re going to be successful if all three legs are strong,” Mazlish said.