2016 has been a tough year for the Butler University basketball community. If you’re a follower of Butler Basketball you know this. If you’re not, please let me explain:
- In January my teammate, Andrew Smith, who I got the opportunity to play with for three years passed away at age 25 after a hard fought, two year battle with cancer. His amazing wife, Samantha, documented their walk through it all in her blog.
- Only a few short weeks later Emerson Kampen IV, “Little Em”, passed away from a genetic disorder called Leigh’s disease. Em was almost 7 months old when he passed. His dad, Emerson, is currently a coach for the Butler basketball team. Emerson is one of my best friends, he and I were in the same incoming class at Butler.
- And yesterday. One of the all time Butler greats, Joel Cornette, passed away. Joel was 35 and a 2003 graduate from Butler. He is a part of the group that laid the foundation for the Butler Basketball we now all know and love. I didn’t play with Joel, but he felt like a teammate to anyone that knew him. I don’t know if I know anyone that cares more about Butler Basketball than Joel did. If I can be real, after hearing the news less than 48 hours ago, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that he’s gone.
2016 has been HARD.
If you have ever watched a Butler Basketball game, win or loss, there are probably a couple things you notice. Butler (a lot of times) looks worse than the team they are competing against. Butler plays together, as one unit, and are completely unselfish in how they play. And Butler is tough. Since the Joel Cornette days, Butler basketball teams have prided themselves on the toughness they exude. The “yes we may not be as talented as you, but we sure as heck are going to be tougher than you” type of mentality. Toughness, hard work, perseverance, and resiliency are staples of Butler teams year in and year out. Through different players every year and 6 different coaches coaches since 2000, those staples haven’t changed. The recruits know it, the current and former players know it, the current and former coaches know it, the Butler students know it, the Butler employees know it, and the Butler basketball followers know it.
I am a proud Butler basketball alum. I am proud to say that the values that we were taught were bigger than the game of basketball. Basketball was the tool we used to learn and grow as people. As a result of that Butler Way culture in which we “deny selfishness, put others above self, and seek to improve daily” we grew as more than teammates and coaches. We grew as a family. The current players are always taught to give credit to the ones that came before them; the alumni are always proud of the current players, and never stop following. I know “we are a family” is cliche for those that aren’t a part of Butler basketball. For those of us that are, we know it’s real. We know it’s special. The passing of Andrew and Little Em were hard for us as a whole – not to mention Samantha and the Smith family; Emerson, his wife Kylie, and the Kampen family. And now we mourn the loss of Joel. I can’t speak for everyone, but the thing that got me through these difficult times this year has been my Butler Basketball family. At Butler “picking each other up” and “getting outside of yourself to make someone else better” are phrases that are heard and reinforced daily. The impact of living those phrases out is amazing. And now, more than any time we were playing basketball.
I know I wear people out talking about Butler Basketball, but there is a reason trust me. Everyone who walks through Hinkle Fieldhouse feels the same way I do. There is truly something special about being a part of the Butler Family. When I signed a Letter of Intent to play at Butler as an 18 year old I could have never imagined this would part of the journey.
For those of you that follow Butler Basketball and for those of you that don’t, please be thinking about our Butler family in this time. If prayer is a part of your life please pray for the family and friends of Joel. And let’s also continue to pray for Samantha Smith, Emerson and Kylie Kampen. Joel’s death is difficult and has opened some old wounds for me, and I am sure for others in our family.
The Butler Way
demands commitment, denies selfishness,
accepts reality, yet seeks improvement everyday
while putting the team above self.
And we will continue to do just that.