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Richmond County Daily Journal

Raider parents reflect back on senior hoopsters Chavis, Baldwin’s basketball journey

By Mark Bell For the Daily Journal,

Zion Baldwin (4) attacks the ball past Myers Park defenders during the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A state championship game held at the University of North Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill on March 11, 2023.

RICHMOND COUNTY — Being a parent of a Richmond Raider student-athlete has its highs and lows throughout the school years, but nothing prepares them for when their son or daughter puts on the green and gold Raider uniform for the last time.

Although defeated on the scoreboard during the basketball championship game on Saturday, seniors Dakota Chavis and Zion Baldwin were already champions in Richmond County long before this season ended.

Shaping those champions on the court was the coaches’ job, but the real lessons were learned at home, where character and passion were molded into their hearts. This story begins there, where parents spend countless hours driving their players around town and the state to give their children a chance to live their dreams. A dream that is not certain, but without those opportunities, it may just be another “what if” bookmark in their young lives.

“As a parent, you always want your child to reach every goal they set for themselves,” said Amber Capel-Chavis. “Dakota and the entire team set their goal this season as making it past the 4th round and exceeding last year, and I know they are proud to have done that.”

Although the team lost in the championship game, Amber said that for the team to make it to the University of North Carolina’s Dean E. Smith Center under six college national championship banners where the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Michael Jordan, and Phil Ford played

was very special for Dakota, Zion, and their teammates.

“My heart is overflowing with joy for him and all these fellas,” she said. “I hope he continues reaching for his future goals, and this is only the beginning for him. Next stop, college.”

Zion’s mother, Stephanie Baldwin, said basketball is one of his passions, but school is a priority. She said her advice for any Richmond student is simple.

“Stay focused in school, no matter how hard it gets,” she said. “Never be ashamed to ask for help.”

Amber said Richmond County has its good and bad moments, but it was the right place for Dakota to grow to be the best player and student. She attributed that to the various coaches teaching him the hard rights over the easy wrongs.

“They taught him that he is accountable,” she said. “It’s a lesson you try to teach at home, but what do mom and dad know? To hear it and for accountability to be practiced outside of the home is a great life lesson that extends beyond the basketball court. It’s always a good thing to hold yourself to high standards. It is a life lesson to know that your team is holding you to that same standard, supporting you to reach that standard, and counting on you to hold them accountable as well.”

What advice does a mother give her son who plays for one of the best North Carolina basketball programs this year?

“Enjoy the game,” she said. “Life is short; follow your passion because that is where your happiness will be found.”

It’s easy to get caught up in distractions on social media and in the day-to-day lives of high school students, but Amber said high school athletes should remember why they are doing what they are doing.

“Enjoy the moment and take it all in,” she told Dakota. “Trust your teammates and play to your strengths. Win or lose is only on the scoreboard, so don’t cheat yourself or your team by giving less than 100 percent. Don’t get caught up in the rainbow; keep chasing that pot of gold.”

Dakota’s father, Larry Chavis, said the local coaches have helped mold him into the humble, dedicated person he is on and off the court.

“I believe all of his coaches, including Raiders coaches, have helped mold him into the young man and player he is today,” he said.

Hood, Scooter, Campo, Julius, Taneika, Kenta, and Bootsie are some of the people Larry attributed to Dakota’s success.

Baldwin echoed Larry’s words, saying, “Each coach has been good to my son by always pushing him to his full potential and to be better daily.

Richmond County is small and rural, but that didn’t stop Zion from excelling on and off the court.

“Raising Zion in Richmond County was good,” Baldwin said. “He loved football, basketball, and video games. Seeing him play the game, he fell in love with a passion and drive to do his best, no matter what.”

Being a parent of a student-athlete comes with sacrifices. For Amber, times were not always easy, and sacrifices had to be made. Time and money were always thoughts in the back of her mind, and she made those hard choices to provide the best opportunity for Dakota and his brothers.

“There were many weeknights spent at practices and weekends spent on the go for tournaments instead of home,” she said. “Money was always tight; constantly told the boys we couldn’t get food there or go out to eat. We always brought our own, made sandwiches, and had snacks and drinks.”

During the pandemic, Amber said she realized how much she enjoyed watching the Raider basketball team play the game they loved.

“Knowing how much he loves and enjoys the game, and the family he has made on and off the court, I would definitely do it again,” she said about those not-so-distant sacrifices.

Baldwin said the significant advice for parents is probably the toughest. “Always show up,” she said. With work schedules, siblings, and other things in life, sometimes just being there isn’t easy. She said that extra effort could mean a lot to a child.

“As a parent with a child who plays sports, always show up when no one is even looking and let them know you are proud of them,” Baldwin said. “Stay involved. Your kids will appreciate it.”

Larry hopes there is one thing Dakota and Zion think about after basketball.

“Remember how you got here,” he said.

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