Andrew Smith, a former Butler star, has passed away on Tuesday after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for two years. He was 25.
Andrew’s wife, Samantha, confirmed his death Tuesday afternoon on Twitter.
Andrew peacefully passed away in his sleep and in my arms as I told him I loved him this morning. Love you always, Smith.— Samantha Smith (@Samantha44Smith) January 12, 2016
Andrew’s father Curt released a statement.
“Andrew packed more living into his 25 years than most of us will enjoy in full 75 years. He lived his faith, relished his family, selflessly served his wife, and pursued his passion of basketball at the highest levels.”
Andrew Smith played little as a freshman at Butler until his season-high 12 minutes in 2010 West Regional final against Kansas State. This opportunity was presented to Smith after teammate Matt Howard encountered foul trouble.
Smith’s performance in this game was critical in helping the Bulldogs edge the opponent by 63-56 and earning the confidence of Coach Brad Stevens, who saw potential in Smith that would need some fine-tuning.
In his sophomore season, Smith would feature as the center for Butler, giving Howard a chance to move into his preferred forward spot. Smith averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, helping Butler reach second consecutive final four. But Smith’s best was yet to come; he averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior.
After graduation, Smith signed with Lithuania in 2013. Medicals revealed that he had a mass in his chest, which was eventually diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January 2014. Smith fought and made some progress, finally returning to work at Mina Leasing and Financial Services in July 2014. However, Smith succumbed to cardiac arrest just four days into his work, which lasted for 22 minutes.
Smith awoke four days later with intact cognition. The medical staff reported it as unusual as having no previous record of a person having an intact neurological function after cardiac arrest of such length.
Smith underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, but the transplant was a failure and his condition aggravated. An aggressive form of leukemia soon followed.
His wife wrote, “We are worried. We are scared. We are devastated.”
After that, Smith spent much time in the hospital. But he attended the December 19 game against previously unbeaten Purdue, who were defeated by Butler 74-68 in the game. His attendance displayed his love and passion for the game. He enjoyed his Christmas at home after being given leave by the hospital. He was readmitted on January 6.
Butler President James Danko and Director of Athletics Barry Collier released a joint statement following Smith’s death.
“The Butler community is profoundly sad today with the news of Andrew’s passing. We saw the way Andrew fought on the basketball court and we saw the way he fought for his health. In both cases, we saw the best of Andrew Smith. But that’s what we always saw from Andrew. He gave his all, all the time. As an Academic All-American, he represented the best of Butler in the classroom and on the court. Above all else, what made Andrew special was the way that he genuinely cared for others. Within his large frame was an even larger heart. He is, was, and always will be a Bulldog. The Butler community is proud to have been part of his life, and our thoughts are with his wife, Samantha; his parents, Debbie and Curt; and the rest of his family.”
Butler players will wear patch featuring Smith’s initials and jersey no. 44 for rest of the season in honor of Smith.
Smith has now ended his playing career with 1,147 points, 648 rebounds, and two appearances in the national championship. Smith played with some of the Butler’s finest and best-known players, including Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard, before he went on to begin his own brief spell in Europe.
[Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images]