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Berkeley's Ephraim Butler overcame the obstacle of losing both of his parents before age 12, using basketball as a source of comfort and means of inspiration.

What could have broken him made him stronger.

Ephraim Butler was one of six children growing up in Moncks Corner.

Arthur Butler, the patriarch, was a pastor at a local church. He and his wife, Karen, worked real estate together.

The close-knit family did what most families did – ate out, competed in games at Frankie’s Fun Park and Dave and Busters, and went on long car rides in their Suburban.

Ephraim cherishes those memories because it’s what’s left of the short time spent with his mother and father.

Arthur Butler died when Ephraim was nine. It left Karen Butler distraught.

“(It) was really rough,” Butler said. “A woman can’t really raise a man. I had to learn a lot of things on my own. I watched my brother make a lot of mistakes. I don’t even know how I got through that time…it was tough. Real tough. I tried to be the best role model to my little brother.”

The toll was so great on Ephraim’s mother that it caused her health to decline. Karen Butler died nearly two years later of what doctors called “a broken heart.”

Ephraim’s older sister, Khalya, took on the motherly role and raised her siblings.

“She uplifted us,” Ephraim said. “She really got us through that time. She always told me I got to understand that they’re gone. Just remember all the things they implanted in you.”

Before his parents passed away, Ephraim was 7 years old when he had already started playing basketball at the local YMCA. He still remembers his first basket. He elevated for a layup on the left side of the basket using his right hand.

After his parents’ departure, the game meant a whole lot more.

“Basketball got me through a lot of things,” he said. “When I was angry thinking about (them), I would go to the gym…it would take my mind off it.”

He displayed his skills as a middle-schooler making Berkeley High School’s junior varsity squad. In ninth grade, Butler began varsity play and served as the Stags’ starting point guard the rest of his high school career.

His senior year, Butler concluded with all-region and all-state nods, as a well as a bid in the North-South all-star game. He racked up almost 1,000 career points and averaged averaging 21 points and 3.5 assists a game, 3.5 to lead Berkeley to 20-3 and a third-round playoff appearance. It was a season many call Berkeley’s best year in basketball.

Butler will likely attend Francis Marion University for college ball.

“When adversity hits, you got to be strong and fight thought it,” Butler said. “Life ain't always going to be easy. You got to keep pushing.”

“It was unfortunate my parents left us so early. You just got to be strong.”

Butler wants his parents’ legacies to live. He started a youth basketball camp last year in honor of them and Berkeley’s late junior varsity basketball coach Donald Minor. Several dozen filled the Berkeley Middle School gym to tone their skills on the hardwood.