The Cary Invasion crowd’s first cheer of 2016 was for a player no longer on the semi-pro basketball team’s roster. But don’t take that the wrong way.
The fans at the Herbert C. Young Community Center Saturday night recognized Corey Evans’ opportunity to sign with a minor league ABA team that is a step up from the Tobacco Road Basketball League.
“The Cary Invasion is proud to announce that Corey Evans has been signed by the Providence Skychiefs,” public announcer Dan Pike proclaimed before he introduced the starting lineups for the visiting Raleigh Revolt and the Invasion.
The veteran guard and leading scorer is missed but not forgotten.
“We’re happy for him,” said fan regular Dana Hamilton, a Cary resident who was seated at midcourt along with her husband Don. “But we’re going to miss seeing him play.”
Without Evans’ scoring punch, the Invasion suffered a 125-113 loss to the Revolt. The Invasion entered the game one loss behind league-leader Wilmington (5-1) and dropped to 6-3 with their first home loss.
“It’s a great thing for him,” said Invasion owner Doc Thorne. “One of the reasons for the Tobacco Road Basketball League is to give players a platform to be seen by scouts and have a chance to move on to the next level.”
Evans is the first Invasion player to sign with an ABA team, but Invasion veterans Mike Smith of Shaw University and Paul Wright of Mountain State University have passed on opportunities to sign with an NBA D-League team. They are beyond their mid-20s, established in the area with families and thus not willing to move to another city.
“The NBA was once my dream, but not anymore,” said Wright, who was hugged by his young daughter after the game. “It’s an opportunity for Corey. We still work hard on our games.”
The Invasion especially felt Evans loss in the first quarter when they were outscored 32-20. They got the deficit down to 97-90 on a three-pointer from Wright with 8:34 left in the game and 112-104 on two free throws by Smith with 4:28 to play.
Wright led the Invasion with 25 points. J.J. Barbee, a new addition, scored 23 points and Smith 20.
Despite the roster change, fans such as the Hamiltons say they enjoy game nights. They added their daughter Ashley, now away from home as a sophomore at Appalachian State, attended games with them.
“We like it because it’s fan friendly experience,” Don said. “It’s exciting. The players, cheerleaders and the announcer engage the crowd.”
The fan involvement will be especially true for the Invasion’s Jan. 16 game against Wilmington at the Young Center. It is Cary Parks and Recreation Night. Any youths wearing Cary Parks and Recreation jerseys will be admitted free. Their parents can gain admission at a two-for-one price.
At halftime, the youths will be invited to take part in a shooting contest.
Youths from nine age groups will be selected to play alongside the Invasion players in a Feb. 6 game against the Cary Police Department.