At a press conference to announce the Philadelphia Reign, a new professional women’s basketball team that will play at Chestnut Hill College, are (from left) team owner Tamika Milburn, State Representative Chris Rabb and head coach Tanae Davis-Cain. (Photo by Linda Johnson)

by Brendan Sample

With the introduction of the Philadelphia Reign of the Women’s Basketball Development Association, the City of Philadelphia will welcome its first professional women’s basketball team in more than 20 years. The team was officially introduced at a press conference on Friday, March 15 at Chestnut Hill College’s Sorgenti Arena, where the Reign will play its home games starting in May.

The WBDA was founded in 2005 as a way to give athletes a continued chance of making the WNBA or international markets after college. Though it has expanded to include veterans and walk-on players, its primary mission is to provide female basketball players a chance to continue playing at a professional level.

This marks the first professional women’s basketball team in Philadelphia since the Philadelphia Rage of the now-defunct American Basketball League, which folded in 1998. Though it has been more than two decades since the city has had a team like this, the Reign is optimistic that this can be the beginning of a new era of women’s professional sports for Philadelphia.

“We’re hoping long-term for a WNBA team – to eventually turn the Reign into a WNBA team,” said Reign owner Tamika Milburn. “We’re also looking to bring other sports here. There are so many other sports that women play that just aren’t represented in Philly right now, and I’m hoping that this will be like that springboard.”

State Senator Art Haywood and State Representative Chris Rabb were also on hand to welcome the Reign to Philadelphia. In addition to their excitement, both Haywood and Rabb also recognized the importance of bringing a team like this one to the city.

“I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to hear about the mentoring and work with young women of this organization and of this leadership, which is something that we really desperately need in Philadelphia and obviously across the entire nation,” Haywood said.

“Anybody who wants to engage in this type of fabulosity [sic] should, irrespective of gender, race, creed,” Rabb said. “There is no lack of women and girls who care about sports and want to make it their career. We have everything we need to make that happen, but the law, society and all of us who care about equity and justice have to ensure that these opportunities are taken advantage of.”

Looking ahead to the start of the season, Reign head coach Tanae Davis-Cain said that while the team is still looking to bring in players, some of whom are currently overseas, the full roster should be ready to go by the start of the season on May 11. A West Philadelphia native, Florida State graduate and player for the WNBA’s Detroit Shock, Davis-Cain spoke about bringing her own style of up-tempo playing with hard-nosed defense to the team, along with her excitement in coming back home to pursue her passion.

“I want to thank Tamika for giving me this opportunity to come back home and do something I love doing, which is coaching,” Davis- Cain said. “Being back here is surreal … I’m coming back home, and I can’t wait to get started.”

The Reign’s first home game of the season will be on May 18 against the Greensboro Havoc at 3 p.m.

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215- 248-8819.

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