Athletics Spotlight: Ephraim Butler
By Jeremy Handel
Loss and Tragedy Couldn’t Defeat Determined SMC Athlete
For many who face adversity at a young age, sports can provide a refuge. They can be a place to escape the pain for a while or a place to find comfort among friends. For some, it can even be a place to find purpose and direction.
For former SMC Men’s Basketball point guard Ephraim Butler, who lost both of his parents by age 11, sports was all of those things and a path to future success, with a few speed bumps along the way.
“I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if it hadn’t happened,” Butler said of losing his parents at such an early age. “I easily could have gone down a different path, but the gym was my safe space.”
He credits his older sister Khayla, who stepped in to raise Ephraim and his four other siblings, with keeping him on the right path and providing him a strong example to follow.
“She never really had time to grieve, and as I got older, I could see my sister suffering,” he said. “A lot of times we went without things, but she always made sure we knew we were loved and provided what she could.”
Ephraim said his sister is the strongest person he knows, and he’s grateful to her for what she provided their family. Khayla says it wasn’t a hard decision to step in and be there for her siblings.
“I’m the oldest, and I was raised to always protect and take care of my siblings,” she said. “I had always helped with them, so stepping in to raise them after our parents passed was the only choice.”
This is when Ephraim turned to the gym and poured himself into basketball, Khayla said. “He was determined to make our parents proud by becoming successful at basketball.” She remembers he was up early every morning practicing at the hoop in the backyard that his mother had bought for him.
That hard work and the support of his family would pay off as Ephraim became a star at Berkeley High School in his hometown of Moncks Corner, SC. It was there that Ephraim met another big influence on his life and experienced more loss.
As a basketball coach in Moncks Corner, Donald Minor first noticed Ephraim for his talent on the court, then he got to know him and saw his need off the court. It wasn’t long before Coach Minor also became a role model for Ephraim, providing a strong male influence. Ephraim called Minor a mentor and “second father” who motivated him to work hard to succeed both in the gym and in life.
And the success came, especially on the court. In high school, Ephraim became a star and led his team to three region championships, a 23-game win streak his senior season, and a second-place finish in the lower state championship that year. Ephraim was named the regional player of the year and an all-state player.