A new Crystal Palace-based basketball team has been set up and will play in the British Basketball League this season – London City Royals.
The club is the brainchild of Nhamo Shire, who is the club’s head of basketball operations.
Shire has been behind initiatives like Midnight Madness and Reach & Teach, which runs the Community Basketball League.
The Royals will train and play at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
He said: “The missing piece for us, for a long time, has been having a professionally-run, viable opportunity at the top end.
“We want to give some of our best developing young players, whether it be domestically, or coming back from America, or even playing in Europe, an opportunity to come home; play in front of their friends and family, and play in front of their home nation in a high-end, professionally run situation.
“We want to develop British stars and market them to help increase the visibility of basketball as a whole and utilise them to inspire the next generation.
“We want to drive home the message that playing professionally at home really is a viable option now and build something that is comparable to what they can get in Europe or elsewhere.”
London City Royals’ roster includes European stars Ashley Hamilton and Matt Bryan-Amaning to take on the likes of Leicester Riders, Manchester Giants and Glasgow Rocks.
Last season Hamilton helped Spanish side Manresa achieve promotion to the Spanish Liga ACB.
Shire believes that bringing Hamilton home to Crystal Palace on a multi-year deal proves to fans that the Royals are serious about changing the narrative in the BBL and elevating British basketball.
“We feel we’ve done something historic here, with confirming Ash for the full season ahead, our first in the BBL,” he said.
“His ability and pedigree send a strong and positive message to our fans that we are serious about building a highest-quality, truly exciting team who deliver jaw-dropping entertainment at The Palace.
“Though Ash is locally grown, he’s internationally known and globally respected – and for good reason.
“His athleticism, agility, ball handling ability, passing skills, defence and leadership skills are all just tremendous and of course, he can score with the best of them, under and way over the rim.
“Being able to bring him home is great for us, but also such a positive statement for British basketball.”
Former GB international Hamilton aims to be the “glue” that binds a talented squad together.
He explained: “I started playing at Crystal Palace when I was young, when I was 16 – to get the chance to come back 12 years later, at home in London in front of my friends and family, well, it’s going to be a good year,”
“I’m an energetic player. I’m 29 now so I’m experienced, my IQ is up as well as my skill level. I’m a leader, I’m an aggressive defender – whatever the team calls for I’m out here to win.
“We have a great collection of players so far, there’s going to be more coming in, I just need to be that glue so we can take it to the next level.”
The Royals begin their league season at Bristol Flyers on September 22 – and the following Saturday debut at home against Surrey Scorchers at the Crystal Palace National Sports Stadium (7.30pm)