Professional men’s basketball has a new champion in town—Buffalo State 2005 alumna and star point guard Tawan Slaughter. The 29-year-old recently became the owner and coach of the Buffalo 716ers, a start-up basketball franchise.
In November, Slaughter purchased the 716ers from American Basketball Association Commissioner Joe Newman. For the previous six years, Slaughter taught as a substitute and full-time physical education teacher in area schools and coached players from middle school through college. Last fall she was approached about leading the 716ers.
“I thought this would be a challenge and a great opportunity,” said Slaughter, who distinguished herself on the court at Christian Central Academy, Fredonia State, and Buffalo State, and later earned tryouts with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks.
Along with her expertise in the sport, Slaughter is tapping into the skills she honed as a communication major to inform potential sponsors and the public that she’s serious about running a reputable team.
“It’s definitely uphill to get over the stigma of minor league basketball in Buffalo,” she admitted. Since 2005, the minor league franchise has had three teams, none of which lasted. Slaughter is determined to break the cycle.
“We’re making progress every day,” she said. “As long as we stay true to our word, we’ll be OK. If we say we’re going to have a 16-game schedule, we’ll have a 16-game schedule. If we say the game will be (aired) live, it will be live. We won’t make promises we can’t keep.”
In late September she’ll hold tryouts for the 716ers, which will face teams such as the Rochester Razor Sharks, the Albany Legends, the New Jersey G Force, and the West Virginia Miners in the spring.
As Slaughter has a small budget to work with, the players, at least for now, will not be paid.
“Through hard work and exposure, these players could get picked up by a major team and make very good money,” she said. More than anything, Slaughter says she wants to provide an opportunity to those who aspire to the big leagues.
“I want to give my players a chance to live their dream,” she said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Meanwhile, Slaughter is coaching a summer team that will compete in the NBA’s Summer Pro League in Los Angeles in July.
“The experience so far has been good,” Slaughter said. “The players I am working with have shown nothing but respect. And I have a great staff.”
Slaughter transferred to Buffalo State as a junior when she followed her coach, Jerome Moss, from Fredonia. As a student, she dreamed of playing professional basketball, then becoming a sportscaster. After attending overseas camps for the pros, she realized that life wasn’t for her.
However, she pointed out, “I know what it takes to be at the next level and can pass this along to my players.”
Slaughter plans not only to develop the 716ers into athletes who can shine in the Independent Association/Premier Basketball League, but also to serve as leaders to inner-city youth.
At Harvey Austin Elementary, she and her players will offer a tutoring and anti-bullying program, along with teaching students the ins and outs of the sport.
“It’s beyond basketball,” said Slaughter of the team’s mission. “There is a nonprofit foundation attached to the team. It’s about giving back.”