By Kyle Packnick,
Sports Business Writer
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, former Butler University basketball star, Andrew Smith passed away following a two-year battle with cancer. He was 25 years old.
Smith was expected to speak at Butler’s upcoming basketball game against St. John’s on Jan. 16. Instead, his wife Samantha delivered a heartfelt speech on behalf of Andrew to a sold-out crowd at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The entire night was dedicated to Andrew. Butler University announced its creation of the Andrew Smith Scholarship Fund, which will provide aid to future Bulldog basketball players. There was a moment of silence in remembrance of Andrew before all five weekend Big East Basketball games tipped-off. Butler’s players all wore number 44 warmup jerseys to honor Smith during the pregame warmups. The team also introduced “AS44” commemorative patches on their jerseys, which they will wear for the remainder of the season. Their opponents, St. John’s, joined in on the action by wearing “Stay Positive Day” Warmups.
Jan. 16 marked Butler’s third annual Stay Positive Day, which is named after the Stay Positive organization, created by former Butler student Eric Day. Day is a two-time cancer survivor. While Day did not cross paths with Smith during their shared time at Butler, they did connect later. They shared a common opponent: cancer. The mission of the organization is to provide scholarships for cancer patients, as well as raise awareness for the cause. Smith’s family released the following statement: “This is a cause so near and dear to our hearts and one swab of the cheek can save someone’s life.”
Perhaps the most emotional part of the night came during Samantha Smith’s powerful half-time speech. Samantha expressed her gratitude for the Butler community, not just for the event, but over the course of the last two years. She addressed how difficult it was to be there without Andrew by her side. “I’m here because it was important to him that you all knew how thankful we are for you guys,” Samantha told the Butler crowd. She was joined by Andrew’s teammate and friend, Erik Fromm, whose father had died of cancer the previous year. Fromm echoed Samantha’s statement, while also expressing what Andrew meant to him, as a “mentor and unparalleled leader.”
Smith graduated from Butler University in 2013. He was an Academic All-American and a vital contributor to the team’s success and multiple Final Four appearances. He played professionally in Europe for the BC Neptūnas, before cancer ended his basketball career.
As for the outcome of the contest, Butler defeated St. John’s 78-58, but the game was about a lot more than basketball. In Smith’s tribute video, the narrator concludes: “Committed to his family, his teams, his fans. Unselfish on and off the court… the Butler way embodied. Andrew Smith – Our mountain. Our miracle. Our moose.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 26th print edition.
Contact Kyle at