Father, brother, coach, mentor

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:47 PM

Playing high school basketball put Cam Hewitt in a precarious predicament.

Sure, he was a talented player on a talented team. But there was a twist — the Buccaneers’ head coach also happened to be his dad.

On a team where playing time was at a premium and the battle for starting spots was fierce, that could very easily have created quite a rift between father and son.

Instead, it brought the two even closer together as they helped guide Grand Haven to one of its best seasons in school history.

That was one of many stories Cam recalled on Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he learned that his dad, Steve Hewitt, had collapsed and died while out for a jog.

“We had our moments,” Cam said. “My junior year was smooth. I was a pretty solid reserve player. I knew I wasn’t going to get much playing time, but I was really OK with that, being behind Austin Harper.

“When it was my senior year, he told me, ‘If you want it, you have to get it. There are other people who want it, too.’ He did it in such a way that inspired me so flawlessly. Throughout the season, he treated me as a player, not like a son, and that’s what I needed. I needed to be treated like everybody else.

“He never let that hinder our relationship. I was really fortunate to have a coach like him. He was my dad, too, but he was the best coach I ever had.”

Cam, now a senior at Hope College, has taken the lessons his dad taught him and put them to work in his own life. He needed all that strength on Tuesday when he learned that something tragic had happened to his dad.

“I had just gotten home from work and I was working out, and my dad told me he was going to go out for a run,” Cam said.

An hour later, Grand Haven High School Principal Tracy Wilson knocked on the door and broke the heartbreaking news to Cam that his father had died.

Cam said that his dad went out for a run almost every day.

“If he didn’t run, he rode his bike or came up with some other form of exercise,” Cam said.  “He knew that by working out, he was giving himself a chance to stay around a little longer. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t what God had planned.”

The news of Steve’s death sent shockwaves through this community, and also his hometown of Petoskey, where much of his family still lives.

Steve’s older brother, Clark, was devastated to learn of his little brother’s death.

“It was just a tremendous shock,” Clark said. “They’re the words you don’t want to hear.”

Clark said he took some comfort in the fact that Steve and his entire family spent the Fourth of July holiday in Petoskey with the rest of the Hewitt family.

“We spent the weekend with the whole family,” said Clark, 52, the second of four Hewitt boys. Steve, 50, was the third. “We got out and did some fishing, and we ended up catching a little bit of fish. It was just a great time to spend — just him and I out on the lake. He loved to do that, just as a release.”

Clark and Steve were extremely close. They played basketball together in high school and both attended Taylor University. Steve was the best man in Clark’s wedding. Clark, despite being the older of the two, often relied on his kid brother for help during tough times.

“Even though he’s my younger brother, he’s been a terrific example of looking up to someone because of hard work,” Clark said. “He’s family-dedicated. He loves the Lord, and his life radiated that. It’s going to be a tremendous loss to our family and the community, too.”

Read more of this story in today's print edition or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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