EAGAN, Minn. - All Conor Smith wanted to do was play basketball. A brain tumor and Leukemia didn't stop him. But chemotherapy almost did nearly two years ago.
In 2009 Conor was cut from the Eagan Traveling Basketball Association because he missed mandatory tryouts due to chemo. Six weeks later a team from Mendota Heights picked him up.
"It's going good. I like it here. It's fun, I like my teammates," Conor said in a 2009 interview.
Conor spent all of 8th grade on the team. He continued to be active until he couldn't anymore. Conor relapsed in June and died Friday at just 15 years old.
"He had a lot of determination and just a drive to do the best he could," Will Kuenster, a former teammate on the Mendota Heights team, said.
"It was cool to see that he could participate with us even if he had to take a break every once and a while," Matthew Johns, also a former teammate, said.
Tim Smith, Conor's dad, said even though the cancer hurt his body it never hurt his spirit. The teenager still loved basketball, still loved helping others and still loved laughing. Conor's story made waves through the Twin Cities athletic community reminding even his own coach what sports is really about.
"We all get lost once in a while as coaches about the competitive nature of youth sports but when you boil it down I think the bottom line is that it's about kids meeting kids and striking friendships," Joel Johns, who coached Conor in Mendota Heights, said.
Friendships and lessons that will live on forever, especially for the ones that got to play with Conor.
"He's feeling like crap all the time and he went 110 percent at a time. It was really cool to see and gave us a lot of perspective on how we should try," Connor Williams, a friend and former teammate said. a
Conor continued to try his hardest until the end when he took his very last breath on August 26.
His funeral will be held September 1 at the Church of St. Thomas Becket in Eagan.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)