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Members of the NC Raptors are, from the left, front row: Coach T.J. McRae, Alijah Nicholson,  Joshua Henderson,  Jer’miah Patterson, Joshua Robison, Juwan Hargrove and Coach Miles Leathers; back row: Jaliajah Hyman, Andrew Smith and Justin Newball.

The Warren County-based NC Raptors travel basketball team brought home a championship in its first season by winning the National Exposure Tournament earlier this summer in Rocky Mount.

Gwen Smith established the NC Raptors in February as a high school varsity-level summer travel league team. The 2019 team included some players from Halifax and Wake counties, but most were from Warren County. 

Coaches were T.J. McRae and Miles Leathers.

Smith said that the team was formed due to a lack of travel basketball teams serving the immediate area. She knew that traveling to other locations for games would be a great experience for local youth, but found that the closest travel teams were based out of Raleigh or Durham, meaning a long travel time from Warren County just to attend practice.

Establishing a team here was the solution.

“The idea was to provide a local team for kids to compete in other areas … to bring exposure to coaches and to build their skills,” Smith said.

This season allowed the Raptors to compete in cities in both North and South Carolina, while playing home games at the John Graham Gym in Warrenton.

The NC Raptors team can look back on a successful inaugural season, and Smith said that the group is already looking forward to next year’s competition.

It might be difficult to top a season that ended with a tournament championship, but Smith and the NC Raptors would say that they are up to the challenge.