May 21, 2007

Booker, Celtics take 2nd at Super Regional

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CLEMSON, (S.C.) - Action was hot and heavy all weekend long on Clemson's campus as the university served as host of the AAU boys' basketball Super Regional. For Tiger fans, 2009 commit Devin Booker, the younger brother of rising sophomore forward Trevor Booker, led the Carolina Celtics to a second place finish in the 16-and-under bracket.

The 6-foot-7, 215-pound power forward averaged eight points and eight rebounds per game as his team went 5-1. The rising junior got a taste of what his future holds.

"I was really excited with the opportunity to play at Clemson," Booker told "I was a little disappointed that we didn't win it all, but I was excited to be able to play at Littlejohn (Coliseum) and to play in front of my brother (Tiger sophomore power forward Trevor Booker)."

The Celtics, 33-4 overall on the circuit this spring, narrowly edged the South Carolina Fire, 62-57, in the opener on Friday evening.

They knocked off the Low Country Heels that features one of the state's top 2009 prospects in big man Milton Jennings, out of Summerville (SC) Pinewood Prep, 76-74, on Saturday morning. Khris Middleton, a 6-foot-6 swingman out of Charleston Porter-Guad, hit a runner at the buzzer for the difference.

The rising junior guard averaged 22 points for the tournament, often showing off a smooth stroke from beyond the arc. He's already attracted some early interest from Clemson.

"I knew I had to make a play and thankfully that shot went in," Middleton noted. "I thought we did well this weekend for the most part and we faced some tough competition. My top two schools right now are Clemson and North Carolina."

The Celtics, highlighted by the play of Booker, Middleton, Charlotte forward Willis Hall and the steady contributions of Easley point guard Joe McNeeley, downed J.B. Main Event, 88-43, and the Georgia Tornados, 71-66, before advancing to Sunday afternoon's Final 4.

There, they got everything they asked for and more, barely edging out the Carolina Hoyas, which is the varsity team of North Augusta. Bryan Narcisse, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound rising senior with bounce, length, and a great motor that has interest from Harvard, energized the Hoyas' near upset attempt.

"That was a tough game for us," Celtics program director and assistant coach Steve McNeely admitted. "They play real well and with a lot of emotion, hit some shots. We got the win though."

The Georgia Stars, led by power forward Kenny Hall out of Stone Mountain (GA) Redan and Marietta (GA) Walton shooting guard Glen Rice, the son of the former NBA sharpshooter of the same name, took out a physically and mentally drained Celtics squad in the finals, 85-69.

"We were already qualified for nationals, but it was nice to get the chance to play up there and support Clemson," Coach Steve McNeely entailed. "It was good for Devin Booker to get to play there as well."

The Celtics, ranked No. 13 in the nation by Breakdown Magazine, have three tournament titles already under their belts including championships at the North Augusta Super Regional, the Spartanburg Invitational and the Charlie Weber Easter Classic, which was in Washington D.C. The South Carolina-based club also advanced to the elite eight of the Kingwood Classic in Houston and to the final four of the King James Classic in Ohio.

They'll next be in action this weekend at the Tournament of Champions in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Most of the teams will also attend Clemson's elite camp in June.

July will see the outfit travel to Orlando for the AAU Super Showcase and Cincinnati for the Adidas Take Five. The title in North Augusta has already qualified them for the nationals, which will take place in Clarksville (TN) at the end of the summer.

"We go where the (best) teams are and where the (college) coaches are," noted coach McNeeley. "We have a top 10 AAU team in the country and don't play a lot in South Carolina. We want to play the best teams in the nation. We have a lot of skilled, character guys that are expected to do well with their grades as well. It's also great because everyone gets a chance to play."

The Carolina Raptors (5-0) cruised to a title in the 17-and-under division this past weekend in Tiger Town with a 60-38 finals win over the Carolina Kings. Lead guard Demarquis Bost, who preps at Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military Academy and has offers from Mississippi State, Cincinnati and Miami along with Clemson interest, guided them to the victory with a stellar all-around tourney.

The Carolina Hoyas won the 15-and-under bracket, including a 66-54 triumph over the Carolina Raptors in the finals.

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