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October 27, 2013

Green takes mantel as Celtics' go-to guy

Forward Green must step into star role for Celtics in 2013-14

BOSTON —Former Georgetown University head coach Craig Esherick vividly remembers the first time he saw the Celtics’ Jeff Green — then a junior at Northwestern High School in Maryland being recruited by mid-major Division 1 schools — take the basketball court.

“A friend of mine who I played basketball with in high school named John Bowie called me and said I needed to come to Maryland to see this kid play,” said Esherick. “He was a friend of Bowie’s son named Jeff Green and I needed to get out to see him right away.

“Well, I knew John knew his basketball so I went to see Jeff play in an AAU tournament. First he won the tip-off. Then, on the first possession he hit a 3-pointer, and on the second possession he threw down a great dunk. After two minutes, I am sitting there thinking, ‘Who the heck is this kid and how is he not a top recruit already signed by a major team?”

For Jeff Green, a man who stands 6-foot-9 with outstanding athleticism, there have always been doubters.

Could he be a star at Georgetown?

Was he simply a product of playing with scoring champion Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City?

Why would the Celtics trade old reliable Kendrick Perkins for Green, a player with so many question marks?

Would he live — let alone play basketball again — after a life-threatening heart condition required major heart surgery?

Now nearly two full years removed from the battle for his life, the forward faces the greatest challenge of his basketball career.

Can the soft-spoken Green be a true superstar, taking on the role Paul Pierce played to a Hall of Fame career?

With “The Truth” and Kevin Garnett now calling Brooklyn home, Ray Allen winning a title in Miami and Rajon Rondo battling injuries —and not a true No. 1 scorer — the fate of the NBA’s most storied franchise now rests on his shoulders.

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