Shannon Nichele made history in 2018 by becoming the youngest person (male or female) to own a WABA team. Now owning a professional basketball team is a very daunting task that requires a lot of time and attention. Which made me curious as to why this young entrepreneur would want to invest her time, money and resources into it. With that said I decided to track Shannon down to see exactly what makes her tick.
I would like to start this interview by going back to when we spoke at the WABA meeting. You said that you were a former athlete. Can you please tell the readers about your athletic background?
“Well, I have been involved in sports for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I participated in basketball, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, and track & field. As a young adult and teenager, I grew to love basketball & soccer. After high school, I continued competing in collegiate level basketball championships such as NIRSA and ACSI during my time at North Carolina A&T State University. Currently, I am the assistant coach to a high school girls’ soccer team and play in adult summer basketball leagues or open gyms in the area on my free time. Although I am on the other side of the court now full-time, I never lose connection with the game.”
You also said that you were a mentor to young ladies. Can you speak about that?
“Absolutely. One of my truest passions is reaching the youth in my community through sports, education, service, and leadership. In 2016, I founded the Hoops & High Heels Project by Hoops & High Heels Incorporated to accomplish just that. Through my endeavors as a coach and woman in sports, I have been able to speak with girls across the community and strive continuously to be a positive influence and leader for these young ladies whether they find a professional career in sports or not. My campaign, “The Hoops & High Heels Project” is designed to give back and award textbook scholarships to the girls who work hard in the classroom, in their community service, their respective sports activity, and lead by example for their peers. We have barely scratched the surface of my vision for sustaining female influence and leadership of young women in my community, but I will not stop until it is brought to fruition.”
Okay moving right along to the WABA. With a half of season under your belt. Is owning a professional basketball team what you expected? and what challenges have you faced so far?
“Wow. There are so many ways to answer that question. First, I want to emphasize to readers and fans of the industry that owning a professional basketball team is so much more than the basketball game. Coming into this I knew my risks, my potential obstacles, and I also recognized the reward it could yield if the right energy was put into making it happen. So I was not caught off guard by the amount of responsibility on my shoulders, but instead, I chose to embrace it and accept the challenge. Also as a woman and a leader in sports, I have to outwork everybody. When my clients and players win… I win. This experience has been imperative to my growth and I am grateful to have a strong executive board with fresh perspectives and strong work ethic.”
So what advice would you give to another young lady who is thinking about becoming an owner of a women’s professional basketball team?
“Be prepared. There are multiple components to being in an executive leadership position. Yes, you are the owner of a professional basketball team, but preparation is one of the most important keys to successfully running an organization and managing other people. Secondly, be confident and decisive in your actions. The members of your organization are dependent on your strong leadership and the players are trusting you with their potential career as a professional athlete. Be sure to take this seriously and when challenges or obstacles come your way, do not quit. Trust the process.”
Now Let’s talk about the Maryland Jewels for a minute. I know you can’t sit here and talk about the whole roster. But can you tell us about a couple of players that you think the readers need to get to know?
“Yes, of course. I believe my Jewels are all unique and accomplished in their own right. This year, we have a roster of young athletes who are very talented, athletic, and exciting to watch play the game. Soon I’ll be able to tell you about all my players on our website, but right now I will highlight 3 people starting with Saadia Doyle, who is our top scorer and a true leader on and off the court for our team. Doyle is a Howard U alumnus and played briefly overseas in Australia. Secondly, I will introduce you to one of our many talented guards, Danielle “Lil D” Pray, who is actually very quiet but shows heart and aggression on the court. Pray is one of the youngest players on our team and still holds a passion and drive to make it to the next level of women’s professional basketball. Last but not least, I have to put Taylor White on your radar. White is full of potential and has only scratched the surface of her athletic abilities. Overall, I am confident that with the continued encouragement from our veteran players like Allese Morrison, Saadia Doyle, Tejahne Malone; and the guidance from our wise coaching staff, we will reach our goal as an organization.”
Okay, so you guys just lost a 9 points game to the DC Cyclones. Which is a team that’s pretty much in your own backyard. What adjustments do you think your team needs to make for the next time you see them?
“Yes, I love the friendly competition we have here in the DMV with the DC Cyclones. It’s a great organization and I really like the direction they’re headed in. We are set to play against the Cyclones this Labor Day weekend for a rematch on September 1st at 3 PM. Honestly, we got a little tired and lost focus in key possessions which shifted the momentum during our first match-up. Our scoring percentage was not as high as it should’ve been and those shots just did not fall when we needed them. I think a few of the adjustments we need involve making better decisions in transition, more aggressive defensive/offensive rebounds, and remembering to hustle on every play.”
I also talked to the owner of the Cleveland Blaze after you beat them, and one of the many good things he had to say about your team, was that you guys had a young roster. How confident are you in this young roster being able to compete for a WABA championship?
“I have no doubt we are able to compete in the WABA championship this year. My roster may be young, but that certainly is not a disadvantage. So far we are ranked 3rd in our Region and still have an opportunity to clinch 1st by the end of regular season.”
So for the fans who have never been to a Maryland Jewels game, what can they expect when they do come?
“We want our fans’ home game experience to be high energy and family-oriented. The competition is always exciting, concessions available, game photography, and music/host to keep the crowd involved during the day! Specific game days we try to collaborate with community initiatives relevant to the time of year such as Back 2 School giveaways and Breast Cancer Awareness initiatives. Tickets are sold at the door and online via jewelsnation.org/tix.”
Finally, how do your additions to the WABA benefit the Maryland community as a whole? Now before you answer this question, I would like for you to speak about 1) the opportunity this organization has given to the local female ball players. 2) The fan base. 3) The opportunity that’s currently being afforded to individuals who’s looking to work with a professional sports team, 4) and the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to be able to promote or advertise their business through the Maryland Jewels.
“Bringing the Maryland Jewels to the WABA league is just the first step to accomplishing our organization’s mission and vision through Jewels Nation, Inc. We have talented athletes from various cities within the metropolitan area, especially Prince George’s County, who bring their loyal friends and fans to support the team on our journey. It is a pleasure to give such an invaluable opportunity to women and be a positive influence on the young ladies in our community through sports. As a businesswoman and entrepreneur myself, I am always looking to collaborate with local entrepreneurs and black-owned businesses in the area to promote positivity and inspire the kids, future college graduates, and professionals who grew up in the DMV.”