INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 17, 2016)- A sold-out crowd filled Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday for Butler's game against St. John's as the team held several tributes to honor former player Andrew Smith.
Smith died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. His wife Samantha Smith spoke during halftime of the game.
"You guys will never know how much this community and this school has carried Andrew and myself through," Smith told the crowd. She also shared one of biggest concerns Andrew had in his final days. "Who's going to take care of you? Who's going to take care of my wife?" Smith continued. "And with all of your generosity you answered that question."
The game started with a touching video tribute to Smith and the Butler basketball team debuted new jersey patches at the game that read "AS44." The team plans to wear them for the remainder of the season.
Bulter and St. John's both warmed up in shirts with Smith's former number on them, 44. Butler Coach Chris Holtmann had his staff custom make a "44" pin that he wore on his suit coat.
"I thank every one of you for that for loving my husband they way that you have," Smith said. “I just want to say thank you for the past two years. They’ve been hard, although comparably nothing to the last week. But they’ve been hard and you guys have made them doable."
Former teammate Eric Fromm, who lost his father to cancer, accompanied Smith during her halftime speech.
“It’s amazing to see a guy like Andrew or my dad when they knew that it was getting pretty bad and they always had a smile on their face and they were always lighting up people’s days,” Fromm said. “That’s what it’s about."
He also touched on the impact of Andrew's contributions to Butler University and the basketball program.
“All these buildings that are sprouting up around campus and all these awesome renovations to this fieldhouse are in a large part to Andrew and what he contributed and the legacy he left when he was here," Fromm said.
Student members of the "Stay Positive" program also sold wristbands, T-shirts, bookmarks and other items in honor of Smith, and proceeds went to the Smith family.
The founder, Eric Day, is a two-time cancer survivor, and he grew close to Andrew during his battle with cancer.
"When Andrew had his battles with cancer we just kind of met up and spoke together because it’s a battle we are all fighting," Day said.
Day said he viewed Andrew as a role model, and he thanks him for the lessons he taught him and the Butler community.
“He was never too big for anybody or anything," Day said. "He just brought us all closer and reminded us how special life is and how we want to live our lives."
Butler won the game, but players admitted afterward they started slow with the strong emotions surrounding the tributes to Smith.
Former teammate and current Butler player Kellen Dunham shared how Smith continues to lead the team.
“He kind of lived in a way that we like to talk to our guys and our teammates about," Dunham said. "He lived for the lord and he also lived the Butler way. Had every core value, great leader senior year, great leader and mentor for me as a freshman, so he was nothing but family."
After the game, Coach Holtmann gave Smith's father, Curt Smith, the game ball.
Smith's funeral is Sunday at Traders Point Christian Church at 5 p.m. If you can't make the service you can live stream it here.