Devante Butler still remembers his first high-pressure basketball games as a child. He was playing at Gregg Park in a league championship game.
“I hit a halfcourt shot (at the buzzer), but it only counted for two points because there was no 3-point line,” he said. “I really believe that was the deciding factor in the game.”
Butler was already turning heads as an 11-year-old shooter. During a strong senior year at Aiken, he turned heads again and helped fuel the area’s most unlikely state playoff run.
Butler, The Augusta Chronicle’s South Carolina All-Area high school player of the year, played on a Hornets team that managed just a third-place regular season finish in its region, but the senior sparked Aiken to a Class AAAA state semifinals appearance.
The third-seeded Hornets upset No. 2 Fort Dorchester, eliminated No. 4 Spring Valley and knocked off No. 1 Wando on the road.
Butler scored a career-high 28 points in the second-
round win and led a defensive surge in the state quarterfinals for a dramatic, come-from-behind victory.
“He was the quarterback of our defense,” coach Tony Harrell. “And I say that because he’s always talking. He’s communicating. If somebody’s in the wrong spot, he’s telling them where to move to and that works better in a zone also when you’ve got that communication factor.”
Aiken took pride in its defensive pressure, hounding teams primarily with a man-to-man approach in the regular season but breaking off into various zone looks in the playoffs. Butler directed the defense but was also the team’s leading scorer.
“Ever since school started I always wanted to be the best and I always wanted to be recognized,” he said. “I prided myself on my school work. Once I figured out I was good at basketball too, I made sure I didn’t let basketball overtake everything. I still wanted good grades. … I want to be a good player and get somewhere successful in life.”
A few colleges have shown interest in Butler. He said he plans to major in business management or computer science. Either way, he said he’ll minor in auto mechanics, a passion he’s put to work since ninth grade restoring a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
“It’s coming along great,” he said. “ … It’s a lot of work, but if you’re going to do it right then you better do the whole thing. You don’t want to do it halfway.”