Invasion players have embraced Cary as their own

CorrespondentJune 30, 2014 

Mike Smith of the Cary Invasion rises for a layup against Jordan Vanderberg (32) of the Triangle Stealth in a May 17 game in which the Triangle Stealth won 116-110.

FABIAN RADULESCU — newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • TRBL changes for next year

    The Tobacco Road Basketball League will undergo some changes for next season in an attempt to, among other things, maximize attendance and make the league attractive to more sponsors.

    Next season will have more of a traditional calendar schedule, starting in November and ending in April. The added months will allow all TRBL teams to work with their venues to schedule and host more games and on better dates.

    There is also no limit on how many regular-season games they can play. All teams will qualify for the playoffs, and they will be seeded in the playoffs according to the league’s point system.

    “What we have learned over the course of our first three seasons is that you have give teams the ability to host and schedule games when it makes sense for them. Being forced to play too many games in a short period or to take too many dates that coincide with spring or summer holidays discourages attendance and does little to impress sponsors. We already have the basketball talent in the league, but now we want to put more emphasis on game time productions, attendance, and sponsorships,” TRBL founder Mark Janas said in a statement.

— Raheem Oshodi lives in Durham, but the 6-foot-10 center and his teammates consider Cary their basketball home as they play for the semi-pro Invasion.

Not even the emergence of the Bull City Legacy, a first-year Tobacco Road Basketball League entry based in Durham, tempted Oshodi to sacrifice the Invasion’s esprit de corps that has remained largely in place throughout the past four seasons.

“We love playing in downtown Cary,” Oshodi said of the Invasion’s home court at the Herbert C. Young Community Center. “We love the support from the fans. I live in Durham, but I prefer to play in Cary. We stick together. We won a championship together and we’ve lost games, but we’re together as a team.”

Oshodi, a former North Carolina Central center, guard Paul Wright (Mountain State), power forward Charles Ward (St. Augustine) and forward Anton Currie (Toledo) are the nucleus of four-year veterans playing with a family dynamic.

“We’ve got a good group of guys,” Ward said.

The Invasion even survived the loss of Corey Evans, the TRBL’s leading scorer, who jumped to Bull City from Cary.

The Invasion (11-2) were still too much for East Division runner-up Bull City (7-6) for the fourth straight time this season – three regular-season victories and the TRBL playoff contest.

The Invasion’s 118-103 victory over the Legacy in a TRBL East Division playoff game on June 21 at the Young Center earned Cary a fourth straight TRBL league championship date.

Wright and guard Mike Smith, the Invasion’s TRBL All-Star selections, combined for 53 points, with 36 and 17 respectively. Ward added 8 and Oshodi 6, but Currie was knocked out of the game early with a broken finger.

The Invasion met the PrimeTime Players of Fort Mill, S.C., in the TRBL championship on Saturday and lost 128-107. In the past three seasons, the Invasion has won the 2011 title but has fallen to PrimeTime the last three years.

In defeating East runner-up Bull City, the Invasion’s veterans and newcomers demonstrated their all-star talent, teamwork, ability and depth.

“This is a team with great chemistry,” said Mike Devere (Shaw University), a first-year player who said he was living in Cary last year when he heard about the team and asked for a tryout this season. “It was a great experience playing my first year of semi-pro ball.”

Devere saw added playing time in the Bull City playoff following Currie’s injury; he finished with 15 points. Devere’s big game off the bench and 22 points from backup guard Freddie Little (Montevallo University) were points of team pride.

“We have interchangeable parts,” Ward said. “As a basketball team you’ve got to be able to make adjustments on the fly.”

The Invasion’s sense of teamwork has been so ingrained, first-year coach Erasto Hatchett said he learned to adapt to his players.

“I saw some fussing go on early, but I realized it was family-like expectations from having played together so long,” Hatchett said. “I was able to let some things go and pick my battles. I picked up on the continuity, and the season went well for us.”

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