RIP Zachary Winston — College Basketball Star Cassius Winston's Brother Dead At 19

So tragic.

RIP Zachary Winston — College Basketball Star Cassius Winston's Brother Dead At 19 Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

Zachary Winston was a basketball star at Division III school Albion College. He was 19 and a sophomore in college. His nickname was Smoothie. He had his whole life ahead of him. On Saturday, November 9, Zachary Winston ran onto train tracks in Albion, Michigan. He was hit by a train at about 8:25 pm and died instantly. The train was delayed more than three hours after the accident. It is believed that Zachary intentionally stepped out in front of the oncoming train. His brother Cassius Winston is also a basketball star at Michigan State. Cassius played a phenomenal game for the Spartans over the weekend after finding out about his brother's apparent suicide. Cassius scored 17 points and had 11 assists at the No. 1 ranked Spartans defeated Binghamton, 100-47.


Zachary Winston was the middle son of Reggie and Wendi Winston. Cassius is the oldest and a senior at Michigan State. Khy is the youngest and was Zachary's teammate on the Albion College basketball team. Our hearts are with the Winston family as they deal with this tremendous loss. Let's take a look at what we know about Zachary Winston's death and how the community and the colleges are rallying around the Winston Family. 

How did Zachary Winston die?

1. Albion college statement

Mauri Ditzler, the president of Albion College released the following statement: "As a community, our hearts are broken today as we share the news of the passing of one of our students, Zachary Winston. Zach was a finance major, a student in the Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, and a member of the Albion College men’s basketball team. Beyond that, he was an extremely charismatic young man with an infectious smile. Zach was a recognized leader who was well known across every facet of our campus, He was a fantastic student with a world of potential before him. He was deeply loved and will be deeply missed.”


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2. Cassius' tribute

Cassius Winston took to his Instagram account to post an open and emotional letter to his brother on Monday, November 11. He wrote, in part: "Ima put this on here cause I need you to read it, and I feel like this the best way for it to get to you. I love you bro, w everything I have in my entire body. I love you so much, if I could carry yo pain I would wear it on my shoulders just to see you happy and wouldn’t think twice. I understand it was too much, I understand I really do and yo story won’t end here. I can promise you that, the next time I run into someone in your situation ima save them, cause that’s wha you would want me to do. I wish it was a term that goes deeper then brother, cause that’s what’s you are to me, 1/3 of my heart. And I’m struggling because there is nothing that can replace that Smoothie. I need you, I miss you. But I’m so proud of you, bro you fought every demon w everything you had in you..." The rest of Cassius' heartbreaking post can be read on the Instagram image below. 



A post shared by Cash #LuvSmoothie (@cassiuswinston5) on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:12pm PST

3. Tributes from friends

Albion College is a close-knit community. The private liberal arts college has about 1,500 students. Tributes poured in for Zachary from friends. Carlton Williams, a senior who spent time with Zachary over the summer said: “Zach was a ball of energy; any time he came into a room he had a huge smile on his face, just a very down-to-earth guy. I just saw him last week, asked how he was doing, and he seemed upbeat. We worked together at orientation last summer. He was awesome. He was a ton of fun, oftentimes led the chants, sang our fight song.”


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4. Michigan State tribute

The Michigan State Spartan basketball team is the No. 1 ranked college basketball program in the country and Cassius Winston is the star of the team. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo released a statement on behalf of his basketball program. "Our hearts are filled with sorrow for the Winston family,” Izzo said. “Their pain over the sudden loss of Zachary is unimaginable. It’s impossible to find the right words in this moment, other than to say that we will support the family in whatever way they need.”

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5. MSU vs. Albion

On October 29, Division I powerhouse Michigan State took on Division III Albion College in an exhibition game. Both schools are in Michigan, but this game was special for another reason. All three sons of Reggie and Wendi Winston played in it. Cassius is a senior All-American star of the Michigan State Spartans. Zachary and Khy played for the Albion College Brits.


6. Sunday's game

MSU played its home opener on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Zachary Winston's death. Coach Tom Izzo didn't expect Cassius, his star, to play. He spent four hours with the Winston family Sunday morning. He was shocked when Cassius walked in a bit late to the team's pregame warmup with his father and his younger brother Khy. After Michigan State's 100-47 win Izzo said: “My message to the team tonight was play with a broken heart. You always look at it that you want to play for somebody, this and that. These guys’ hearts were broken. I’ve coached in a lot of games in my career, but this was by far the most difficult day. It really was. Cassius, his brothers are the world to him. I’ve never seen a kid over my years that was as close with his brothers.”


If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based writer and editor covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.