GOSHEN — The community lost an outstanding young man and leader when Bethany Christian high school senior KeShawn Smith died in a car crash Saturday, Smith’s principal and soccer coach said Monday.
“He’s a very likeable kid. Big smile, big heart. He’s a big guy. Good athlete. Just is very well liked and respected throughout the school,” Hank Willems said. “So probably couldn’t name a kid that would have affected more of the people in our Bethany community than KeShawn.”
Willems has two kids in Bethany Christian schools, a son who was a teammate of Smith’s on the basketball court and soccer field, and a seventh-grade daughter.
“She was absolutely beside herself when she heard the news, just because he’s the kind of kid that made everyone in our school feel good. He talked to the younger students as well as the older students and was just an outstanding young man,” Willems said.
According to Willems, Bethany Christian Schools has about 300 students in grades 4-12 under one roof. Smith was a teacher assistant for younger students in several classes.
“He is one of those unique kids that kind of transcends grade levels,” Willems said.
Smith was a leader and captained both the basketball and soccer teams. He was named all-conference in soccer the past two years and helped the team win back-to-back sectionals, according to Willems. Smith was on his way to a basketball recruiting weekend at Huntington University when the accident happened.
Willems said Smith was mostly a post player in basketball and a central defender in soccer.
Bethany Christian Schools started Monday with an assembly for the entire student population. Willems said there are several guidance counselors at the school, and that some of the other schools in the area have offered assistance with extra counselors.
“The other area schools have all been wonderful. They’ve really reached out and asked what they could do to help us,” Willems said.
He said the school’s basketball team is now in its sectional season and had senior night, honoring the team’s two seniors, this past Friday.
“KeShawn had an outstanding game. We lost a very hard-fought game to Fremont, 48-46. KeShawn led the team in scoring,” Willems said.
He said Smith sat out most of the basketball season last year with an ACL tear.
“He worked very hard to get back in shape for both soccer and basketball this year and was really starting to have a very good basketball season the last several games,” Willems said.
This Friday, Bethany will play again, likely against Fremont once more, according to Willems.
“We have to now turn around and start tournament play, which KeShawn’s parents are very adamant that we go and play. They said KeShawn would be devastated if he thought that our team wasn’t ready to play Friday,” he said.
In order to offer the most support to the team, Bethany is offering free busing for students and encourages everyone to come to the game.
“Go and support the team, because it is going to be a hard night,” Willems said.