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7 State Parks Every North Carolinian Should Visit At Least Once

This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the North Carolina State Parks system, with Mt. Mitchell State Park being the first in a system that now includes 34 state parks, four state recreation areas, two state natural areas, and one nature preserve. And our state parks have never been more popular, with 2015 visitation numbers at a record high 17.3 million visitors across all parks. This growth in visitation is up from 15.6 million visitors in 2014 and 14.2 million visitors in 2013. For a state that has a population of 10 million, our state parks are getting quite a lot of visitation!

In light of the 100 year anniversary of our State Parks system we have put together a bucket list of seven state parks that every North Carolinian should visit at least once in their lifetime. We have chosen these parks primarily based on their unique or iconic natural and/or historic significance. We would venture to say that our bucket list of state parks are the top parks that people think of when they think of NC State Parks, and therefore we believe that every North Carolinian should experience these parks at least once, but preferably many times in a lifetime!

1. Mt. Mitchell State Park 

At 6,366 feet above sea level, Mt Mitchell is the highest point in North America east of the Rockies. If that’s not enough of a reason to visit, it is also the first state park in the NC state parks system, having been established in 1916.

Mt. Mitchell is accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway north of the small town of Black Mountain. NC Highway 128 winds off the Parkway five miles to the top of the mountain where there is a raised observation platform with 360 degree views giving you visibility of up to 85 miles on a clear day.

If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can hike up the Mount Mitchell Trail, which ascends 3600 feet in 5.5 miles to reach the summit. There is also small nine-site campground near the summit, which is the highest campground east of the Rockies.

Mt Mitchell is also home to a number of extremely challenging races including the Assault on Mount Mitchell - a 102 mile bike race from Spartanburg, SC to the summit - and the Mount Mitchell Challenge - a 40 mile ultramarathon trail race from Black Mountain up  to the summit and back down.

For more about Mount Mitchell State Park click HERE


2. Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge is located in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern US. The dunes were almost bulldozed in the mid 1970s for the construction of a residential development until locals organized to protect and preserve Jockey’s Ridge.  

The tallest dunes in Jockey’s ridge are as tall as an 8-10 story building and the views of both the ocean and the sound from the top are spectacular, with sunset being a particularly popular time to climb the dunes. Favorite past times at Jockey’s Ridge include flying kites, sliding down the dunes on boogie boards, sand boarding, and for the truly adventurous – hang gliding.

The park was the center for hang gliding on the East Coast in the 70s and 80s and Jockey’s Ridge’s soft sand and smooth winds continue to make it an ideal place to learn how to hang glide. Beginner hang gliding lessons are available in Jockey’s Ridge State Park and are provided by Kitty Hawk Kites, located just outside the park boundaries.

For more about Jockey’s Ridge State Park click HERE and HERE


3. Pilot Mountain State Park

Pilot Mountain is an iconic geologic feature of North Carolina, rising up majestically 2,000 feet from the surrounding landscape. The mountain’s unique and unmistakable shape, which is visible for miles around, has served as a landmark and guidepost for Native Americans and early European settlers for millennia. The local Saura Indians called Pilot Mountain “Jomeokee” which means the Great Guide or Pilot.

While you cannot get on top of Pilot Mountain there is a 0.8 mile trail that goes around the base of the rock formation with great views of the cliffs of Pilot Mountain. Rock climbing and rappelling are popular activities in the park although climbing on Pilot Mountain itself is prohibited.

For more about Pilot Mountain State Park click HERE


4. Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock is one of the newer parks in the state park system having been previously owned and operated as a private park until 2007 when the family that owned Chimney Rock sold it to the state. The Chimney Rock is another one of the iconic geologic features of North Carolina. It is a spire of rock 315 feet tall that you can walk out on to enjoy amazing views of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge.

Back in the late 1940’s, in a unique feat of engineering, an elevator was constructed inside the cliff walls behind the Chimney Rock to provide access to the top. While the elevator is currently undergoing repairs and updating, the only way to get to the top now is to climb the 500 steps that wind up and around the cliff faces surrounding Chimney Rock.

In addition to visiting the namesake Chimney Rock, there is also a wonderful short ¾ mile hike to the 400 foot Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Rock climbing is also available in the park with instruction provided by Fox Mountain Guides – the southeast’s leader in climbing instruction.

For more about Chimney Rock State Park click HERE and HERE


5. Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is the only state park created around a man made landmark as opposed to the more commonly featured natural landscapes of the state park system. While Fort Macon is the most prominent and unique aspect of this state park, there is also 1.5 miles of ocean front beach that make this park a popular draw for those interested in history as well as beach time fun and relaxation.

Fort Macon was built between 1826 and 1834 and served to defend Beaufort Inlet as the main point of entry to the ports of Morehead City and Beaufort Harbor, which was North Carolina’s only major deep water ocean port. The Fort was the location of a brief siege during the Civil War in which one Union soldier and seven Confederate soldiers lost their lives and Union Forces ended up taking over the Fort. In 1903 the US Army abandoned the Fort and it was later sold to the state of North Carolina for $1 in 1924, becoming North Carolina’s second state park that year.

The Fort went back into military usage during World War II when the US Army leased the fort from the state of North Carolina and actively manned it with coastal artillery troops.

Today there are musket and canon firing demonstrations as well as daily tours of the Fort from spring through fall. Fort Macon, located on Beaufort Inlet and the eastern edge of Bogue Banks, is also a popular spot for fishing as well.

For more about Fort Macon State Park click HERE


6. Hammocks Beach State Park

On the opposite end of Bogue Banks from Fort Macon, and across Bogue Inlet, you will find Bear Island, which is a part of Hammocks Beach State Park - one of the most remote and least visited state parks in the state park system.

Hammocks Beach State Park consists of three Islands as well as some acreage on the mainland with a visitor’s center, but Bear Island is the crown jewel of this park and the main reason why people come to Hammocks Beach. Bear Island is a four-mile long undeveloped and pristine ocean front island that is only accessible via passenger ferry or private boat.

There are 16 campsites on Bear Island and camping on Bear Island, just feet from the ocean, is a truly wonderful experience for beach lovers. Camping on Bear Island is not for the faint of heart though with the good possibility of storms, high winds, and flying-biting critters during the warmer months.

For the most adventurous, kayaking out to Bear Island is a great way to explore the park, with well-marked paddle trails that wind between the islands in the salt marshes between the mainland and Bear Island. The paddle from the kayak launch at the visitor’s center to the Bear Island campsites is 2.6 miles one-way.

For more about Hammocks Beach State Park click HERE


7. Your Local State Park

With 41 protected areas in the NC State Parks system spread all across our state it is safe to say we are all within 30 minutes to an hour drive of a state park. Each one of these parks has something special and unique to offer.

For more about local state parks near you click HERE

Our closest local state park, and the one we spend the most time at, is the Eno River State Park here in Durham. We have been coming to this park for as long as we can remember – hiking in the woods, playing in the river, cliff jumping at the quarry, fishing, trail running, kayaking after a heavy rain – using this wonderful natural resource to its fullest!

Since we have been coming to the Eno River State Park it has continually grown in size through land acquisitions and now fully encompasses and preserves 9 miles of the Eno River and surrounding lands. Every year on the 4th of July weekend there is the Festival for the Eno at the West Point on the Eno city park. The Festival for the Eno raises money for future land purchases and includes musical performances as well as vendors selling food, beer, art and crafts.

Whatever and wherever your local State Park is, every North Carolinian should get out and get familiar with their local park. The state of North Carolina has done a tremendous job of preserving some of the unique natural landscapes of our state so that we can all enjoy these places for generations to come!

We would love to hear about your favorite local parks and what you love about them – comment below!

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'Taste The South' With Greensboro's Natty Greene's Brewing Company

It is no secret that the craft beer scene in North Carolina has exploded over the recent years and is now growing to rival western states in which the micro brew revolution began. The four states with the most microbreweries in 2015 include California (518), Washington (305), Colorado (284) and Oregon (228). By comparison North Carolina had 161 breweries in 2015 and new breweries continue to pop up all the time. It is safe to now say that you are never further than 30 minutes drive from either locally brewed beer or NC’s world renowned BBQ. North Carolina is truly heaven for lovers of beer and BBQ!

The respect that North Carolina has built recently as a leader in the craft brewing industry has been further reinforced by the expansion of major Western state craft brewers to the mountains of North Carolina. Western North Carolina is now home to east coast breweries for the some of the largest craft brewers in the US including New Belgium (4th) and Oskar Blues (14th), both originally from Colorado, as well as one of the earliest microbreweries that deserves due credit (along with Sam Adams) for popularizing the microbrew trend, Sierra Nevada (3rd) from California. Additionally Asheville, which has more breweries per capita than any US city, has consistently won and been ranked at the top of the annual Beer City USA poll, and Charlotte, which currently has 17 microbreweries with another 20 in the works, is also gaining recognition as a southern craft beer destination.

While Greensboro may not have the sheer numbers of breweries that can be found in Asheville or Charlotte, it can boast of having one of the earliest and most well established  and respected breweries in North Carolina. Natty Greene’s began brewing beer in 2004 and is the 30th fastest growing craft beer brand in America, winning countless awards at both regional and national beer festivals in the process.

We recently had an opportunity to tour the Natty Green’s production facility and got to talk to one of the founders, Kayne Fisher, who gave us some insight into the origins and evolution of Natty Greene’s and their plans for the future.

The beginnings of Natty Greene’s date back to the mid-1990’s and two college roommates at UNC-Greensboro, Kayne Fisher and Chris Lester. They originally started working in the beer industry for a local distributor, but as they became aware of beers that had a greater depth of flavor and complexity than the regular old swill that young people all over America have been drinking for generations, they decided they wanted to be a part of this innovative and exciting aspect of the beer business. 

In 1996 they opened the Old Town Draught House in downtown Greensboro to emphasize excellent and unusual craft brews on tap that were previously unavailable locally. Building on the success of their first venture they went on to open two more craft beer focused restaurants over the next six years – one each in Winston Salem and Greensboro. 

Realizing the growing trend of localism and the desire for locally brewed beer, Fisher and Lester decided to go all in on the craft beer business and begin brewing their own beer in 2004 under the name Natty Greene’s, named for Greensboro’s namesake, revolutionary war general Nathanael Greene. 

Natty Greene’s Brewing Company opened in 2004 as a restaurant brewpub in the heart of downtown with a 7-barrel brewing system. After lots of positive feedback and receiving recognition for their passion for southern traditions and American style sessionable ales, they opened a production facility in 2007 near the Greensboro Colliseum. This larger 20-barrel brewing facility and tasting room enabled them to keep pace with demand and distribute their beers across North Carolina and from Washington, DC in the north to Savannah, GA in the south.

While people are most likely familiar with their year round brews including Buckshot Amber and Southern Session IPA, which are widely found in local grocery stores and bottle shops, an important part of Natty Greene’s strategy during the early development of the brewery was a unique niche specialization on sour beers. While sour beers have become all the rage among craft beer drinkers over the last couple of years, Natty Greene’s was clearly ahead of the curve in developing their line of this especially tart and refreshing summer drinking beer.

The sour beer program at Natty Greene’s has been a part of their master plan from the beginning and this style of  beer taps into unique flavor profiles that are achieved by the addition of additional yeast and bacteria after initial fermentation followed by barrel aging for 18+ months. The first release of their American Sour was in 2006 and since then their sour series has become a highly sought after release in the craft beer industry. 

In addition to their American Sour Ale which has been released every year since 2006 in their sour series, they also have limited bottle releases of three other sour beers – a traditional Gueze-style lambic as well as a tart cherry and peach infused sour.

The next step in Natty Greene’s evolution is an exciting one as they plan to move and expand their production facility and open Natty Greene’s Kitchen and Market in the newly revitalized Revolution Mill in Greensboro. In addition to a restaurant with seating for over 300, Natty Greene’s Kitchen and Market will include a bakery, butcher, and of course, their brewery. The idea behind this move is to create a community space in Greensboro where people can get to know the butcher, baker and beer maker all under one roof. 

The Kitchen, Market, and Brewery at Revolution Mill is slated to open in early 2017 but until they open their new facility you can check out their current brewery at 1918 W Gate City Blvd across from the Greensboro Coliseum. The Bunker Tasting Room is open every Friday from 5-9:30PM where you can get a peek inside the production facility while you try special releases and limited batch brews including their sour beers and Silo Series limited draft releases. 

Natty Greene’s original brew pub and restaurant is located at 345 S Elm St in the heart of downtown Greensboro and is open from 11AM to midnight seven days a week.

We love the community pride that local businesses inspire in North Carolina and greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn more about what has become an iconic NC craft brewery. We encourage you to drink local and support Natty Greene's and other up and coming homegrown NC brewers and we look forward to bringing you more posts about many of the local craft breweries that call NC home!



Why is May 20, 1775 on the NC State Flag and what is Meck Dec Day?

The 4th of July is the quintessential American holiday - a day that is celebrated by parades, picnics, barbecues, baseball games, beer, and fireworks. Even those with a most basic knowledge of American history can tell you that the 4th of July is our American Independence Day, which marks the birth of the United States through the declaration of our freedom from the rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain. 

But how many people know the significance of May 20th , known as Meck Dec Day, among important dates in the history of our nation, and particularly the history of the state of North Carolina? It is a date that anyone who has spent any considerable period of time in North Carolina has seen many times over without giving much thought as to what that date signifies. It is a date deemed to be of such importance to the state of North Carolina that it is displayed prominently on our state flag.

So what is the story behind May 20th , why is it a central feature of the North Carolina flag, and why is this day called Meck Dec Day? Legend tells us that there was a declaration of independence made fully one year before the US Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. On May 20, 1775 the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (shortened to Meck Dec) was supposedly made in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County placing North Carolina at the forefront of the American independence movement.  

While the details of the events of May 20th and the actual document have been lost to the passage of time, the legend states that upon hearing of the battles of Lexington and Concord, where British soldiers fired on and killed American colonists, the citizens of Mecklenburg county drafted a declaration of independence that was read publicly at noon from the courthouse steps in the small village of Charlottetowne. 

About two weeks later, local militia leader James Jack set off on horseback to Philadelphia to deliver this  document  to the representatives from North Carolina at the Second Continental Congress who drafted the United States Declaration of Independence a little over a year later. 

 Statue of James Jack known as The Spirit of Mecklenburg Statue located along Charlotte's Trail of History

Statue of James Jack known as The Spirit of Mecklenburg Statue located along Charlotte's Trail of History

The actual veracity of this event has been debated and denied by historians and politicians alike, including the original drafter of the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who had been accused of plagiarizing the Mecklenburg Declaration in his writing of the US Declaration of Independence. Others have recognized the possibility that May 20th in the colony of North Carolina may have been the spark that inspired Jefferson and others to eventually declare independence on a national level. 

Meck Dec Day has been celebrated in Charlotte since the 1800s and in 1881 May 20th became a legal state holiday although it is no longer an official holiday or as widely recognized around the state. Four sitting US presidents have participated in the Meck Dec Day celebrations held in Charlotte, including Taft (1909), Wilson (1916), Eisenhower (1954), and Ford (1975).

Beginning in 1995 the tradition of celebrating Meck Dec Day annually on May 20 in Charlotte was reestablished. Every year on Meck Dec Day in Charlotte reenactors read the Mecklenburg Declaration from the steps of a reproduction of the original courthouse in uptown Charlotte. Toasts accompanied by “Huzzahs” are made, followed by musket and cannon fire and a parade to the Old Settler’s Cemetery.      

 Meck Dec Day celebration held annually in uptown Charlotte

Meck Dec Day celebration held annually in uptown Charlotte

While the Declaration of Independence of May 20, 1775 in Mecklenburg county may or may not have been made (for the record, we believe it did happen), the colony of North Carolina was undoubtedly one of the leading players in the fight for American independence.  The British referred to Charlotte as “a hornet’s nest of rebellion” and avoided it all costs.  

The other date found on the NC state flag, April 12, 1776, marks the Halifax resolves - a resolution made by representatives from around the colony of North Carolina making NC the first colony to permit their delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to vote in favor of independence at the national level. 

The Mecklenburg Declaration and the independent and rebellious spirit that characterizes the boldness of making such a statement has played an important part in the culture and lore of North Carolina. Meck Dec Day and May 20th is a date to be remembered and celebrated. Huzzah!

To read more about the details of May 20, 1775 and the text of the Mecklenburg Declaration visit the Mecklenburg Historical Association website at www.meckdec.org
For an overview of Meck Dec Day weekend events visit The May 20th Society website at   www.may20thsociety.org



NC's One and Only #1 NFL Draft Pick

The state of North Carolina can undoubtedly claim dominance of basketball greatness at the college level and in producing some of the greatest professional basketball players in the history of the game. North Carolina has also produced the most #1 NBA draft picks in history, as well as the greatest ever #3 pick in the NBA draft (see Jordan, Michael).

However, North Carolina’s success at producing collegiate football powerhouses and dominant professional football players has not been nearly as prolific. While, Appalachian State has had much success over the years, winning three straight Division I-AA championships between 2005-2007 before moving to Football Bowl Subdivision (previously Division I-A) in 2013, no school from North Carolina has ever won a top tier college national championship.

And unlike the numerous #1 NBA draft picks that North Carolina has produced, we only have one prospect picked #1 in the NFL draft – a player who has quietly gone on to have a solid NFL career and proven himself to have been a smart choice at #1 over more hyped players in the 2006 NFL draft.

Mario Williams is from the small town of Richlands (pop. 1,520) near Jacksonville in Onslow County. Coming out of Richlands High School, Mario was ranked as one of the top defensive ends in the country and ended up playing his college ball at NC State from 2003 to 2005. Mario’s legacy at NC State has been cemented through his numerous defensive records including sacks in a season (14.5) and career (25.5) and tackles for a loss in a season (27.5) and career (55.5).

In the lead up to the 2006 NFL draft Mario was projected to be a top 10 pick and his performance at the NFL scouting combine was highly impressive with a 4.7 40 yard dash and 40.5” vertical from someone 6’6” tall and weighing 290 pounds. The Houston Texans had the first pick in 2006 and instead of going with the Heisman winning Reggie Bush from the University of Southern California or the Houston hometown hero Vince Young, they surprised many by taking a chance on Mario Williams.

As it turns out Reggie Bush has had a respectable career so far in the NFL with three 1,000 yard rushing seasons and a Super Bowl ring, but no Pro Bowl, while Vince Young’s last season in the NFL was 2011 after appearing in two Pro Bowls. In comparison, Mario Williams has averaged almost 10 sacks a year and has four Pro Bowls under his belt during his time with both the Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills.

Beginning next year Mario will begin playing for the Miami Dolphins where he should have plenty of open water to cruise around on his bad ass Wolfpack themed boat!



Paddle Local - Shop Local - with Liquid Logic and Native Watercraft

This Nor Cak News article is the first in what we plan as an ongoing series of articles highlighting North Carolina businesses and entrepreneurs who have made their passion their profession. Liquid Logic and Native Watercraft kayaks - manufactured just outside of Asheville - is one of those businesses.

We recently picked up a new Liquid Logic kayak at their facility in Fletcher, NC. It has always been important to us to support local NC businesses - and as a long time paddler of Liquid Logic kayaks I also know that Liquid Logic makes some of the best boats and has the most loyal customers in the whitewater industry. While we were at the Liquid Logic/Native Watercraft facility we had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders and owners, and local whitewater paddling legend Shane Benedict.

 The Liquid Logic/Native Watercraft sign out front of the Fletcher, NC facility

The Liquid Logic/Native Watercraft sign out front of the Fletcher, NC facility

What’s the story behind how Liquid Logic and Native Watercraft were started?

Liquid Logic was started in 1999 by a group of us that was working at Perception kayaks at the time. Perception got bought out by a venture capital company and we ended up seeing a lot of changes that we didn’t like so we left there and started Liquid Logic. It was a passion thing for us. We just wanted to make really good boats that we wanted to paddle.

Native was started in 2006 and the original plan with Native was to make modern boats based on native designs like the Alaskan and Native American canoes and kayaks. One of our original sales reps was a big time fisherman and he really emphasized the ability to fish out of these boats and when kayak fishing really took off Native was able to fill that niche because of his vision.

We have a boat at Native called the Ultimate which is a hybrid kayak/canoe that really sets that standard for stability and utility as well as being lightweight. It is actually used quite a bit by not only fishermen but waterfowl hunters, birders and photographers as well.

 The Native Ultimate

The Native Ultimate

 The Native Slayer Propel with a pedal drive system that can be pedaled in reverse 

The Native Slayer Propel with a pedal drive system that can be pedaled in reverse 

 You explained the story behind the name Native Watercraft, but what’s the story behind the name Liquid Logic?

 We’ve tried and tried to remember how we actually came up with that name but we don’t actually know how the final name ended up being what it is. We were really excited about using the word Liquid for a kayaking company and then Logic just popped. We still can’t figure out who said it but as soon as we heard the name together we knew that was it.

 The Liquid Logic factory store

The Liquid Logic factory store

 Why did you base Liquid Logic in western North Carolina?

Ease of access to the Green river. Woody (another founder/owner) and I started paddling the Green river really early on and always loved it and loved the fact that it ran all the time. We loved the area, we love the mountains, and we’re close to Asheville which is a cool town. But the Green river is a pretty amazing training ground. If you feel comfortable on the Green you can paddle a lot of places.

 Aside from the Green where are your favorite places to paddle in NC?

The Linville Gorge is a classic and you can’t beat it. It’s tough, intimidating, committing – it’s a big day but it’s an amazing stretch of river. I also grew up going to summer camp in Highlands, NC and I hiked and swam all over in the headwaters of the Chattooga. So a lot of the rivers and creeks up there like the Toxaway, Horse Pasture, Whitewater - all that stuff in the Jocassee drainage. Another one that sticks out as a classic, and one of the early creeks I ever ran was Overflow creek. I’d call that another home turf run for me.

 What are you most excited about for the future of Liquid Logic and Native Watercraft?

Just to keep making the boats that Woody and I and the Pat Keller’s (2014 Paddler of the Year) of the world want to paddle and just to inspire and help people keep falling in love with the sport. That’s the goal!

 Liquid Logic sponsored paddler Pat Keller running Gorilla during the annual Green River race

Liquid Logic sponsored paddler Pat Keller running Gorilla during the annual Green River race


Liquid logic kayaks are available through direct-to-customer sales at liquidlogickayaks.com which allows them to offer their whitewater kayaks at a cheaper price than other manufacturers. To save even more on shipping take a trip out to western NC to pick up your boat, check out their facility and enjoy the mountains! If you are in the area you can check out Liquid Logic and Native Watercraft kayaks at their factory store in Fletcher, NC. Liquid Logic kayaks are also available to demo at the following partner demo centers:

  • Asheville Adventure Rentals – Asheville, NC
  • Green River Adventures – Saluda, NC
  • US National Whitewater Center – Charlotte, NC

Native Watercraft kayaks are available at the following local dealers:

  • Diamond Brand Outdoors – Arden, NC
  • Get Outdoors – Greensboro, NC
  • Outdoor Supply Company – Hickory, NC
  • Mountain Outfitters – West Jefferson, NC
  • Hook, Line, and Paddle – Wilmington, NC
  • Hunt, Fish, Paddle – Lake Wylie, SC (near Charlotte)
  • Appomattox River Company – Hampton, VA (closest dealer to Northeast NC and OBX)



The state of #1 NBA Draft Picks

We all know the state of North Carolina has a rich history of success in college basketball and has produced some major NBA talent, but did you know that North Carolina has produced the most #1 NBA draft picks of any state? There have been seven #1 NBA draft picks who played their high school basketball in North Carolina (equaled only by the state of Illinois which has also had seven #1 NBA picks)  giving further credence to the fact that basketball is ingrained in the DNA of the Old North State.

Jimmy Walker – 1967 #1 Pick

  Jimmy Walker

 Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker was the first person to play high school basketball in North Carolina to be picked #1 in the NBA draft when he was selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1967. Jimmy Walker was originally from Boston, but Celtics star Sam Jones took an interest in the young Walker and steered him to his alma mater, Laurinburg Institute, a black preparatory school in Laurinburg, NC. He played his college ball at Providence and was the NCAA’s leading scorer his senior year. Interestingly, he was also the final pick of the 1967 NFL draft despite having never played college football.

David “Skywalker” Thompson – 1975 #1 Pick

David Thompson was born and raised in Shelby, NC where he played for Crest High School. He went on to play his college basketball at NC State, being an instrumental player in the Wolfpack's 1974 National Championship season. Thompson was a three time ACC player of the year and two time national college player of the year. Thompson was drafted #1 in 1975 by both the ABA’s Virginia Squires and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks but ended up signing with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets. Thompson was a finalist in the first ever slam dunk competition, losing to Julius "Dr.J" Erving who performed the first ever free throw line dunk at the 1976 ABA All-Star weekend.

John Lucas – 1976 #1 Pick

  John Lucas

 John Lucas

John Lucas is a native of Durham where he played for Hillside High School. He went on to play at Maryland in college where he was twice named a consensus first team All-American. Lucas was also an extremely talented tennis player and was named an All-American in tennis at Maryland as well. Lucas was picked #1 in the 1976 draft by the Houston Rockets.


James Worthy – 1982 #1 Pick

  James Worthy

 James Worthy

James Worthy was born in Gastonia where he led Ashbrook High School to the state championship game in his senior year. Worthy went on to play his college basketball at UNC where he won the national championship in 1982 along with Michael Jordan. In his junior year at UNC he shared player of the year honors with Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was drafted #1 by the LA Lakers in 1982, where he spent the entirety of his career and won three NBA championships, being the only player on this list to win an NBA title. Worthy was also named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Brad Daugherty – 1986 #1 Pick

  Brad Daugherty

 Brad Daugherty

Brad Daugherty was born and raised in Black Mountain near Asheville. Daugherty played for Charles D. Owen high school and led the team to the 1982 state finals. Daugherty played his college basketball at UNC where he entered school as a 16 year old freshman. Daugherty was picked #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986. Daugherty was the Cavaliers all-time leading scorer until LeBron James broke that record in 2008. Daugherty is now commonly seen as a college basketball analyst and NASCAR broadcaster for ESPN.

Danny Manning – 1988 #1 Pick

 Danny Manning

Danny Manning

Danny Manning was born in Mississippi but ended up in Greensboro after his father, who played professional basketball in the NBA and ABA for 10 years, started his coaching career as an assistant at NC A&T in Greensboro. As a junior, Manning led Page High School to an undefeated season and a state championship. He went on to play for the University of Kansas, where he won the national championship and player of the year honors in 1988, and was drafted #1 by the Los Angeles Clippers later that year. Manning’s career has brought him full circle back to North Carolina when he recently took the head coaching job at Wake Forest.

John Wall – 2010 #1 Pick

 John Wall

John Wall

John Wall was born in Raleigh and played his high school basketball at Word of God Christian Academy. Wall played one year at Kentucky where he was named a first team All-American. He was drafted #1 by the Washington Wizards in 2010 and has been an NBA All-Star the last two seasons.



1984 #3 PICK

And then of course there is the world’s best known #3 draft pick in NBA history from Wilmington, North Carolina…




North Carolina's First (and Possibly Greatest) Basketball Champions

If you are a college basketball fan from North Carolina you are undoubtedly familiar with the images of Michael Jordan’s game winning shot in the NCAA championship game to give UNC the 1982 title, or legendary NC State coach Jim Valvano running around the court in utter disbelief after the Wolfpacks’ improbable cinderella run to the championship in 1983. These are two legendary moments in college basketball  - and North Carolina - history.

UNC's 1982 National Championship Victory

NC State's 1983 National Championship Victory

That 1983 championship was NC State’s last and the Tarheels have gone on to win three more titles since 1982, but what about North Carolina’s two leading public universities previous basketball championships? UNC won its first NCAA championship in 1957 and NC State won its first in 1974, yet these two great championship teams from North Carolina are little known and rarely talked about. These teams played in an era where only the conference champion went to the NCAA tournament and the media coverage at the time was nothing compared to what it was in the 1980’s, much less today, yet each of these teams had quite interesting stories - and runs to their championship titles.

1957 University of North Carolina Tarheels

The 1957 Tarheels were the second undefeated team to win the NCAA championship after the San Francisco Dons, who were led by future Hall of Famer Bill Russell, ended the 1956 season with a 29 - 0 record. The 1957 Heels, who went 32 – 0, are also one of only seven teams to ever make it through the season undefeated and win the NCAA championship (UCLA in ’64, ’67, ’72, ’73 and Indiana ’76 being the others).

Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire, who was from New York City, assembled a roster largely made of players from in and around New York City. Lennie Rosenbluth, who was a senior in 1957, was one of those players and still holds the UNC records for most points scored in a season (895) and highest scoring average over a career (26.9). Ken Rosemond from Hillsborough, NC was on this team as well and ended up becoming Dean Smith’s first assistant coach.

Coach McGuire prepared his team with a road heavy schedule and by the time of the NCAA tournament, only eight of UNC’s games had been played at home. On top of a grueling road schedule leading up to the Final Four, the Heels had to win back-to-back triple overtime games in the final two days of the tournament to take the championship.

In the Final Four, UNC defeated Michigan State 74 – 70 in triple overtime. For the championship game the next day against Kansas, held in Kansas City and essentially making the game a home game for the Jayhawks, the Heels had to battle against Wilt Chamberlain, one of the most dominant players of all time and holder of too many NBA records to count.  After yet another triple overtime game against Kansas, the Tarheels emerged victorious 54 – 53, giving UNC their second undefeated season and their first NCAA championship (their first undefeated season was 1924, prior to the NCAA tournament).

 The Tarheels triple-teamed Wilt Chamberlain, who still ended up leading Kansas with 23 points and won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament despite losing the championship game

The Tarheels triple-teamed Wilt Chamberlain, who still ended up leading Kansas with 23 points and won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament despite losing the championship game

 The 1957 Heels starting five were led by Lennie Rosenbluth (10) who scored 20 points in the championship game but fouled out before the end of regulation, and missed all three overtime periods.

The 1957 Heels starting five were led by Lennie Rosenbluth (10) who scored 20 points in the championship game but fouled out before the end of regulation, and missed all three overtime periods.

UNC's first NCAA title and the only NCAA championship game to go to three overtimes

1974 North Carolina State University Wolfpack

The 1974 Wolfpack, who finished the season 30 – 1, were only one loss away from being the second undefeated team from North Carolina to win a NCAA championship. The Wolfpack was undefeated in 1973 but missed that year's NCAA tournament due to questions about the recruiting of high school phenomenon David Thompson.  The Wolfpack’s only loss in 1974 was an early season matchup between the dominant #1 ranked UCLA Bruins and the #2 ranked Wolfpack. NC State lost that game 84 – 66 to a UCLA team which was deep in the midst of an NCAA record 88 game win streak, had gone undefeated the previous two seasons, and had won the previous seven national championships. However, the Wolfpack would avenge this loss to UCLA in dramatic fashion later in the season.

The Wolfpack were coached by Norm Sloan, who had previously played both basketball and football at NC State. The teams’ star player was NC native David Thompson from Shelby, NC, whom many consider to be the greatest basketball player in ACC history. Thompson’s nickname was "Skywalker" because of his incredible 44 inch standing vertical leap. While Thompson played during an era when the slam dunk was outlawed, the alley-oop pass, now a staple of today's high-flying above-the-rim game, was "invented" by Thompson and his 5' 7" teammate Monte Towe, and first used as an integral part of the offense by NC State coach Norm Sloan to take advantage of Thompson's leaping ability.

Thompson was rumored to be able to grab a quarter off the top of the backboard and was so legendary in his day that North Carolina's greatest basketball legend, Michael Jordan, has said that Thompson was his basketball role model as a young man. Thompson was such an inspiration to Jordan that he asked Thompson to introduce him during his 2009 Hall of Fame induction. Thompson, a Hall of Famer himself, also remains the only player in NC State men’s basketball history to have his number retired.

The 1974 Wolfpack also included another NC native and fan favorite, the 7’ 2’’ Tommy Burleson, a senior from Newland, NC who was key to NC State’s defense of UCLA superstar Bill Walton in their Final Four game. The 1974 Final Four was held in Greensboro and in the semifinal game, NC State faced off against the dominant UCLA Bruins. The game went to double overtime with the Wolfpack coming back from down 5 points late in regulation and then coming back from being down by 7 points in the second overtime to win 80 – 77, ending UCLA’s streak of seven straight national championships. NC State’s 76 - 64 championship game win against Marquette was much less competitive and anti-climactic in comparison, but brought a successful end to NC State’s greatest season - and greatest team - in history.

 David Thompson, the 5' 7" Monte Towe, Moe Rivers, and 7' 2" Tommy Burleson

David Thompson, the 5' 7" Monte Towe, Moe Rivers, and 7' 2" Tommy Burleson

 Sports Illustrated cover showing 6’ 4” David Thompson, who won the tournaments’ Most Oustanding Player, skying over 6’ 11” Bill Walton

Sports Illustrated cover showing 6’ 4” David Thompson, who won the tournaments’ Most Oustanding Player, skying over 6’ 11” Bill Walton

1974 NC State vs. UCLA Final Four game - NC State ends UCLA's run of seven national titles in a row




Have you ever wondered where 'Cakalacky' - our much loved nickname for North Carolina - came from? Well we have. The first place we ever heard the word ‘Cakalacky’ was from A Tribe Called Quest, one of the greatest hip hop groups of the 90's - if not of all time. Their single ‘Scenario’ - listed by Rolling Stone  as one of the 50 greatest hip hop songs ever  - includes the memorable and catchy lyrics “East coast stomping, ripping and romping // New York, North Cack-a-laka, and Compton.” 

All you 90's hip hop aficionados look out for Busta Rhymes breakout as a young 19 year old!

This pop culture reference was the first time this unique term for North Carolina reached a national audience, but A Tribe Called Quest clearly didn’t just invent ‘North Cakalaka.’ So where did it come from?  Well the quick answer is that nobody knows. There is no clear origin for this odd nickname for North Carolina, although there are many theories about where this term came from.

To begin, there is no consensus on how exactly ‘Cakalacky’ is spelled. There are numerous alternative spellings and derivations of this nickname which is sometimes seen spelled as Cackalacky, Cacillaci, Cackalack, Kakalaka, Kackalacky, Cakalaka, and others. The fact there is no commonly accepted spelling indicates its origins as a type of colloquial folk speech that has been passed across generations and through communities by word-of-mouth.

A professor of American Studies at UNC has suggested that ‘Cakalacky’ has roots in gospel groups in the American South in the1930s, who used the rhythmic chant “clanka lanka” in their songs. Other theories include the idea that the term may have come from a combination of “Tsalaki” (pronounced cha-lak-ee), supposedly the Cherokee way to say “Cherokee,” and “cocklaleekie,” a Scottish soup popular among the Scots that settled the highlands of western North Carolina. 

Another professor at UNC has said that there is strong evidence showing the term gained popularity and spread among soldiers from outside of North Carolina during the late 1960’s Vietnam era when more than 200,000 soldiers from all over the country passed through Fort Bragg for basic training.

There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that the term ‘Cakalacky’ either did or did not exist earlier than the 1960’s depending on which old timer you talk to. However, what is known is that ‘Cakalacky’ was apparently completely undocumented in printed form until it was used in A Tribe Called Quest’s hit song ‘Scenario.’ Since that time, the use of the term seems to have increased in popularity considerably.

In the end we will likely never know where the term ‘Cakalacky’ came from, what its original meaning was, or why people started using this odd yet beloved nickname for North Carolina, but regardless of whether these questions are ever answered, one thing we do know is that 'Cakalackeee' is the place to be!!

If you have a theory or a story about where you think 'Cakalacky' originated, tell us what you know and leave a comment!