If you’ve been in the Fayetteville community a while, your heart probably smiled when you heard the news about professional basketball coming back to Fayetteville. The city has a unique relationship with basketball. We have legendary players and coaches, active professional players, overseas superstars, you name it. Though the city is filled with talent in every corner, and fans eager to see basketball being played, the hoop city hasn’t had a professional basketball team in over 16 years.
In 2001, the Fayetteville Patriots launched its opening season and were one of eight franchises in the National Basketball Development League. The team held games in the Crown Complex arena, where the games were full of entertainment and great basketball. The Patriots won the semifinals in their 2002-2003 season. The franchise lasted a total of five seasons, bringing the organization to a close in 2006.
Fans have been awaiting a return of professional basketball since then. Sources around the city have been buzzin’ with rumors about another team forming in the city for the past couple of years, and in January of 2022 the Fayetteville Stingers announced that they will be forming a team under The Basketball League.
The Fayetteville Stingers organization is spearheaded by the team marketing owner Ken Bishop and General Manager Ray Phillips who are both Philadelphia natives. Both have coaching and leadership experience in their communities. Since announcing the team, and hiring all-star coaching duo Don Gardner and Robert Brickey, they’ve been on a mission to create opportunities and build a solid foundation here within the community.
In an interview with sports podcaster Tiras Ray, of “Say what Say it again,” Bishop explained why he chose Fayetteville when picking a city. He said “you guys have a lot of history here, to not have a team in one of the most polarizing sports (basketball) was a head scratcher to me, like why is this not happening? I did my research more on the community and something inside of me just said ‘Make this Happen!’”
After reaching out to Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin about bringing the team to Fayetteville, Bishop and Phillips began to set their plans in motion. After the hiring of Brickey and Gardner, the four have been able to be on the same wavelength with similar expectations for the organization.
In the podcast, Bishop and Brickey agreed that a goal is to bring a winning aspect to the game, for the team and entertainment wise for local audiences. “We want everybody to have fun, this is a game that can take you places. We all have the same goals, make it the playoffs, compete at a high level, and keep taking things to the next level for the community.”
Also in the podcast, when asked why he chose the name Fayetteville Stingers, Bishop says “it was a play on the basketball teams that are already here in the state of North Carolina. Charlotte has the Hornets, the G-league team is named the Swarm, let’s play off the history.”
Since establishing the Stingers, the managers and coaches have hosted a series of combines, training camps, clinics and try outs to build their staff and roster for the opening season, which has already begun. Most of the staff and players are Fayetteville natives or a part of the community in Cumberland County.
Phillips recognizes that the city is a gold mine of talent from all walks of life. “It’s our job as an organization, as the Stingers and representing the TBL to give people a second chance at something they love to do and that’s not just on the basketball court, that’s off the basketball court as well,” Phillips says.
The Stingers decided to keep the organization as local as possible. They have intern partnerships with Fayetteville State University and Methodist University. Giving students opportunities and work experience in different fields within the basketball world is beneficial to the organization and the community.
The Stingers also kept their combines local and accepted players in the Fayetteville, Hope Mills and surrounding areas. The roster being mostly Fayetteville natives is extremely important for the next generation of basketball players to see, especially on a professional level.
While also playing their games in the historic Crown Complex and staffing their organization with key figures of the community, it’s clear to see the Stingers are dedicated to the city of Fayetteville.
With the community on their side, along with a dynamite coaching staff and roster, the Fayetteville Stingers are underway in their opening season.
Their next home game will be played this Friday, March 17, at the Crown Complex arena, starting at 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss the chance to see and support the newest basketball here in our city.
Single game tickets are available at the box office and on Ticketmaster.com. You can also check out season pass options on the team website https://fayettevillestingers.com/.
Up & Coming Weekly sat down with General Manager Ray Phillips to discuss his role with the Stingers and what the organization is bringing to the city of Fayetteville.
“My favorite part of being the General Manager of the Fayetteville Stingers is being able to have an impact of the lives of these young men, and the staff members that come through. It gives me a chance to impart my wisdom and knowledge, but most importantly a listening ear.”
Phillips notices that a lot of times in the Black and brown community, guys don’t have a chance to express themselves to other men. He says, “we’re constantly told to man up or that we’re being too soft, nobody cares about what you have to say. But I want to be that ear because I do care and love you, even if I don’t know you. I want to hear what you have to say.”
With the responsibility of a team and the lives of the staff and players, communication is key and an important foundation in Phillip’s role in the organization. As General Manager, he is the right-hand man to every staff member and oversees everyone from the Dance and Media teams to the players.
His role also consists of handling team partnerships and representing the organization during media interactions and promotion. Though he wears many hats, Phillips said he feels that his most important role is to build a great relationship with the community.
Back in January, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Stingers were able to adopt B Street in downtown Fayetteville. Phillips took 12 young men, walked down B Street and voluntarily did a trash pickup.
He says, “It’s important for the people in the community to see us out there, because without those people, we’re nothing.”