Memory of young basketball player lives; family and friends honor athlete

The girls were lighting it up from three-point range during the game. (Photo by Timothy Ramsey)

Memory of young basketball player lives; family and friends honor athlete
June 23
03:12 2016

The loss of a loved one can be difficult to overcome, especially if it’s your child.  The memory of Celeste Burgess continues to live on three years after her death.  The Burgess family held the second annual Celeste Burgess Memorial Banquet last Friday at the Enterprise Center, in her honor, along with the Memorial Basketball game Saturday.

Celeste Burgess was an up-and-coming basketball star in the Winston-Salem area.  At the age of 14 she had already garnered attention from top Division I basketball programs.

At 6 feet, she was versatile enough to literally play all positions on the court.  Her untimely death came as she was headed to a basketball camp in Auburn, Alabama, in June 2013.  The vehicle she was riding in was hit head on by a car that crossed into the vehicle’s lane. Burgess was later pronounced dead.

After her death, her family started the Celeste Burgess O.N.E. Foundation to give back to members of the community as well as keep her memory alive.  The banquet was also a fundraising effort for the foundation to go toward scholarships that it will provide to local teens seeking to further their education.

“We always want to remember her life and desires to play the game of basketball,” said Allen Burgess, Celeste’s father.  “We want to help the community come together.  The fundraiser helps us have turkey giveaways during Thanksgiving, toy giveaways during Christmas and is going to help someone go to college.

There were two games played Saturday night, one for the girls and one for the boys.  The girl’s game started rather slowly, as they ran up and down the court getting a feel for one another.  Once they were into the flow of the game, the girls started raining three-pointers left and right.  The game swayed back and forth until after half time. the pink team took control of the game with some timely steals and pinpoint passes to expand the lead to double figures.  The pink team extended the lead late into the second half highlighted by a Stephen Curry-like 35 foot three-pointer as time was expiring.  The Pink team defeated the white team by the score of 65 to 47.

Next on the court were the boys, who came out of the gates reminiscent of an NBA All-Star game, with fancy dribbling and alley-oop passes.  The boys came out just as cold as the girls from downtown but realized their bread and butter was in the paint. The high flying dunks by Reggie Davis and Jahlil Rawley kept everyone on the edge, even when they missed.  As the game progressed and the defensive intensity waned the green team started to assert their dominance on the offensive end of the floor.  In the end, the green team ran away with game, defeating the white team by the score of 94 to 65.

The players of the games were made up of old Celeste’s former teammates, local AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) players, and people who respected her game.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the game and had a good time.  People were not there to compete; they were there to honor a fallen friend.

“I grew up with Celeste, and we had been friends since the age of 4,” Ciani Byrom said.  “Her death devastated us but it motivated us to try harder because no matter what, Celeste played her hardest and worked harder than anyone.  She had the biggest heart on the team and pushed everyone to do their best.”

Celeste was beloved by everyone, but her father said it best when he stated, “Yeah she was a very good ball player, but she was an even better person, and that’s what really matters.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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