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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Brad Stevens flies to visit former Butler player recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma

Andrew Smith Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens continues to show exactly what made his tenure at Butler so special.

Stevens, who reached two NCAA championship games at Butler and is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics, recently flew into Indianapolis to visit his former player, Andrew Smith, who is ill.

Smith began playing basketball professionally in Lithuania in September before receiving the news that he had a tumor in his chest. He was later diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and returned home to Zionsville, Ind., to receive treatment.

On Tuesday, Smith’s wife Samantha said that Andrew received a visit from Stevens.

Stevens’ Celtics hosted the Mavericks on Sunday, played at Milwaukee on Monday and host the Spurs on Wednesday night. Stevens made time in between all that to stop by and see his former player.

Smith played in 134 career games with Butler from 2009 to last year. He was a freshman when they reached the championship game in 2010 and a sophomore when they made it back to the title game the next year. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. He is ranked 25th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,147 points and 12th with 648 career rebounds.

Through five games with the Neptunas in Lithuania, Smith was averaging 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, according to the Indianapolis Star. His professional career has been put on hold while he tries to beat the disease.

Smith graduated last spring and married his longtime girlfriend, Samantha, over the summer, per The Star. In a blog post published last week, Samantha wrote about the experience of learning about Andrew’s illness.

But an adventure that was supposed to kick off our marriage into a whirlwind of experience and culture was cut short when we were sat down at our kitchen table in Lithuania and were told there was a sizable tumor taking shape inside of Andrew. Shock, dismay, sadness, fear, and an emergency flight home were our next 36 hours. We had dreamt of the joyous day of setting foot on US ground once again, but this is certainly not what we had pictured. It was hard to be excited about reuniting with our loved ones because we knew that those hugs would be brief before heading straight to the hospital from O’Hare.

A few days into tests, scans, and sleepless nights in the hospital, we received my sweet guy’s diagnosis. Andrew has a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that is more common (and curable) in young children. In hearing the diagnosis, we felt like we were taking blow after blow.

The Smiths are using their faith to help them get through the situation. With that belief and the support of their family and loved ones, like Stevens, they will have a great chance to get through it.

How can you not love the family atmosphere created by Stevens at Butler?

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