Kristen Dickerson was raised to be a doer, not just a dreamer.
Her upbringing as the middle of three daughters of entrepreneur parents did not prize simple ambition or empty aspirations.
“My dad just always raised us to do something,” Dickerson said. “If we wanted something, he’d tell us to see what we could do about it, and because of that, I’m definitely a go-getter.”
And because she is both a dreamer and a doer by nature, the 22-year-old is the owner and general manager of a semi-professional basketball team, the Columbia Crusaders.
The team, which practices and plays at a variety of locations across the city, is 6-1 and ranked the national No. 1 team in the Community Basketball League.
Dickerson, a long-time basketball player, decided during her senior year at Francis Marion that she wanted to bring a basketball team to Columbia.
She had seen her father, Jerome Dickerson, work to start the Palmetto 76ers, one of the state’s most prominent girls AAU basketball programs.
“My parents have had their own organization, D & D Enterprises, and for a long time, I’ve wanted to get involved with it and expand it to another level,” she said. “Last year, me and my boyfriend just started talking about, what it would take to get a professional basketball team here.”
Rather than just imagining, Dickerson started researching.
“I just wondered if there was something out there, but I had no idea what I was looking for,” she said.
Dickerson found the Community Basketball League, an organization that touts itself as a platform for exposure, a “professional basketball league for amateur and recreational players,” and a path to a career in sport management for its owners and team managers.
The league’s structure allows for easy entry into ownership – with start-up costs from $750 to $8,000 and no costs for travel or staff salaries.
“When I saw that it was actually possible, I was so excited. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with the president of the league, then I was making payments,” Dickerson said. “It still seems unreal.”
Her father was not surprised.
“When she was in high school, people didn’t think she was going to be a college player, but she did that and she learned, no matter what other people say, you can make it happen,” Jerome Dickerson said. “I’m just proud, to see her pour her heart and soul into basketball, and into this team.”
The past year has been a trail of accomplishments for the former Heathwood Hall star. In 2013, she finished her college career as the Patriots’ most valuable player. Then two days after graduating with her bachelors degree in business administration, she was offered the position of girls basketball coach at Ben Lippen.
“Coaching, definitely, switched my perspective around, and made me see the game in a whole new light,” said Dickerson, whose Falcons were 3-13 in her first season.
And her love for basketball grew when she stepped into her role as general manager of the Crusaders.
“I did think it was going to be someone older, but when I met with her and we got to talking and I heard her ideas, we were on the same page,” said Allen Franklin, a former Gamecock player who Dickerson tabbed as coach.
“I think the time was right, with as much basketball talent as there is in the city and the state, it was the right time to put a minor league team here.”
Franklin, who also works as a marketing consultant, said he was impressed with the opportunities that the community-based team could provide for both its players and the city.
With the Crusaders, players such as Irmo alum Anton Greer have the chance to play in front of coaches from NBA developmental league and college teams. Both Franklin and Dickerson are aiming to help catapult their players to the next level.
“I’m not going to the league, I know that I’m not going to the WNBA. But I think I was given this passion for basketball so that I could help someone else make that leap,” Dickerson said.
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419