Andrew Smith (USATSI)
They just didn't expect to come back so soon or under such difficult circumstances.
Smith, a three-year starter at Butler who played in the national title game in both 2010 and 2011, has rushed home to Indianapolis after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His return to the Lithuanian professional team, the Neptunas, remains uncertain pending the outcome of his treatment.
In a blog post written earlier this week, Smith's wife detailed how they discovered he has cancer, what they've done since the diagnosis and how they're leaning on their faith to guide them through this challenging time.
"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," Samantha Smith wrote. "Shock, dismay, sadness, fear, and an emergency flight home were our next 36 hours.
"We had [dreamed] 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."
Smith averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds as a senior last season for a Butler team that reached the NCAA tournament's round of 32. He told the Butler Collegian that he chose to play for Neptunas instead of some of the other teams interested in him because it's in Lithuania's top division and has qualified to compete in EuroCup.
If Smith needs any encouragement as he battles his disease, social media would be a good place to start. Former teammates and adversaries alike have offered their support as word of his battle with cancer reached them.
"Andrew Smith is one tough dude!!! No doubt in my mind he beats this!! Prayers up to the big guy and his family!" former Butler teammate Rotnei Clarke tweeted.
Added Indiana coach Tom Crean: "Andrew Smith is one of the toughest players we have ever competed against and has a very bright future in this world. Get healthy soon. It doesn't matter who you are a fan or supporter of but Andrew Smith deserves your prayers and support right now with his health issue."
The support for Smith was perhaps summed up best by Xavier coach Chris Mack, whose team faced Butler five times in Smith's four seasons.
Tweeted Mack: "If former Butler great Andrew Smith attacks cancer like he attacked basketball games, cancer has no chance."
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