Emerson Kampen learns from Andrew Smith, hopes to inspire others

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Andrew Smith's legacy already is leaving a lasting impression, from the lives he indirectly could save to the patches the Butler program will wear to honor its former center.

Smith, who played on both Butler teams that reached the NCAA title games in 2010 and '11, died Tuesday at age 25 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

On Thursday, a former teammate,Emerson Kampen, found out that he will be the bone marrow donor for a 59-year-old male battlingnon-Hodgkin lymphoma, the same cancer Smith had.

The stem-cell treatment will take place next month.

Kampen told The Star Press of Muncie, Indiana, that Smith's impact on him and others made going forth with the gesture an easy call.

"The real challenge is, how long can we do it?" said Kampen, a forward who played all four seasons at Butler with Smith and then remained friends with him afterward. "How long can we wake up every morning and have an attack mindset on life and take the punches when they come, smile and keep going? That's another challenge that a lot of guys who played with him and guys on our current team are taking. How long can we value every day in life? It's easy to do it for the first week. It's hard when all the dust settles, and life goes back to being regular.

"That's the challenge we've given our guys, and that's the challenge Andrew has given us. How long can we go having a good perspective and a positive attitude, embracing every single day? Because you don't know when the last one is going to be."

Kampen said he and others in the university's athletic department had their cheeks swabbed and blood drawn for a bone marrow registry last year.

In December, Kampen found out he was a match for the 59-year-old. Kampen told Smith's wife, Samantha, who in turn notified him of some bad news: that his former teammate needed to be readmitted to the hospital after his own bone marrow transplant had failed.

"So when I texted her and told her that I was a match, maybe it gave them a little bit of peace that day knowing that even though Andrew's didn't work, maybe somebody else's might," Kampen told The Star Press. "I took great pride in that maybe I brought them a little bit of joy in that day they found out horrific news. She was very excited.

"I think the biggest thing they want to do is create a legacy for him and helping other people and continuing to fight cancer throughout the world and helping continue to beat cancer."

The current Bulldogs will do their part.

On Thursday, they unveiled an "AS44" patch, a nod to Smith's initials and jersey number while at the school. The team will wear the patch for the duration of the season.