Up & Over

Cary Invasion’s High-Energy Hoops 

They play fast and tough in Area 51, a blur of neon green uniforms against the squeaks of rubber on hardwood and the whistles of referees’ calls.

Blink and you’ll miss a pass or the fierce eye contact of defenders blocking a shot. It’s all-in hustle, and it’s all part of the Invasion.

One of Cary’s best-kept secrets, the Cary Invasion is a semi-pro basketball team now in its fourth league-topping season, based at the Herbert C. Young Community Center in downtown Cary.  

Dubbed “Area 51” and patrolled by high-fiving mascot Cosmo, the gym action is up-close and personal and the fan crowd diverse. 

“We’re a solid team; we’re winners,” said Invasion owner and general manager Terry “Doc” Thorne of Cary, who purchased the team in fall 2013 and took over operations on Jan. 1.

“These are dedicated players, guys who want to play basketball. Our goal is to bring a mini-NBA experience to the Triangle.”

Thorne is an NCAA and youth sports certified coach, a former ad man and a Cary advocate who serves on local boards and committees.  

His Invasion has a 2011 Continental Basketball Association championship under its belt and two Eastern Division titles in its current Tobacco Road Basketball League, an independent minor league with teams operating across the Southeast.

The Invasion is coached by basketball veteran Erasto Hatchett.

Proven Talents
Players under contract earned star status on NCAA courts during their college years; many have since chased the ball internationally, or have even been part of the famous Harlem Globetrotters.   

Daryll “Showtime” Hill is among them. A 6-foot, 3-inch guard and forward for the Invasion, Hill earned his nickname at age 11.

“I threw the ball between the legs of another player,” said the modest Hill, now 32. Truth is, Hill became known for lightning speed and flashy plays during his one-on-one playground days, before making a name for himself in New York’s famed Rucker League and in NCAA play at St. John’s University.

He led Big East scoring there and boosted the St. John’s team to a championship during his sophomore year.

“In the eighth grade, I knew basketball would be more than a hobby,” Hill said. “Scouts were there. I saw how serious it was and felt I was born into it. Everything changed.”

Today, Hill operates a personal development firm, when not firing up the court with the Invasion.

“There are big-time players in this league,” he said. “And I’m not done playing basketball.” 

Teammate Charles “Skywalker” Ward, a power forward standing 6 feet, 7 inches, agrees.

Ward’s claims to fame include on-court action for St. Augustine’s University, playing pro basketball in the U.S. and worldwide, and being narrowly beaten for an NBA roster spot with the Washington Wizards by none other than Michael Jordan.  

“By high school I knew I wanted to play basketball,” said Ward, 33, who works as a personal basketball trainer. “And there’s lots of basketball here in the Triangle, the whole college madness. The Invasion is about more than making a dollar; it’s about community. You embrace them, they build you up.”

Like the stomping, screaming fans at the game to celebrate the 11th birthday of Landon Hunt of Cary. At halftime, they joined him mid-court as Landon accepted a ball signed by Invasion players, and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday.”

“We became familiar with the team through our older son; players have visited his school, Reedy Creek Middle,” said Landon’s mom, Cindy. “All the boys are so into basketball, we thought this would be fun for his party. It’s much more than I expected, very organized, and there’s even a room for us upstairs, with pizza.”

‘Cary’s Team’
Leading the TRBL by a long shot at press time, Thorne says he’s aiming high with the Invasion. Games include real-deal announcers and statisticians, with food and vendors set up in the lobby.

Adding to game-day excitement is the Cary Invasion dance team, led by LaTasha Dunn. With a background in gymnastics, professional cheering and dancing, Dunn challenges her team with choreographed routines and constant practice. 

“There’s a broad range of what you can do, from ’80s to cowboy themes,” she said. “We want that poise, confidence, that sexy NBA style to add a different type of entertainment.”

The Invasion’s home court advantage at the community center comes courtesy of a trade with the Town of Cary, Thorne says, in exchange for players providing pre-game kids’ camps.

He wants to keep the team’s base downtown, as it strives to bring another championship to Cary, as a bonus for local sponsors and fans.

“All or most of our sponsors are Cary-based,” Thorne said. “Some are cash and some are in-kind, like Studio 180 Salon does our dancers’ hair.

“Our fan base is growing, and I see our league coming to the forefront in the Triangle area as the population grows. We’ve got the beginning of something big.

“I think the town appreciates that we’re trying to create a first-class ball team,” Thorne said. “We are Cary’s team, and its ambassadors everywhere we play.”

Editor’s note: Game tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for children under 12.

Cary Invasion

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