OPINION | This article contains commentary that reflects the author's opinion.
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20-year-old college basketball player Derek Gray of the University of Wisconsin died suddenly and unexpectedly while “playing the game he loved.”
Gray suffered a “cardiac event” due to a “blockage,” according to his coach Pat Miller.
There was no hint that Gray was having difficulty. “He was not labored, there was nothing we saw,” Miller said.
“He was a player I had a lot of long conversations [with] about life, basketball, family, and community. He was a very intelligent guy, very intuitive, and I really enjoyed his perspectives,” the coach said.
“His teammates loved him,” Miller said. “He had a really unique ability to connect with all his teammates in different ways.”
“It was horrible,” he said. “We have our overnight camp. At the end of our evening session, we get pizza for the campers and all our camp counselors play a game and play music, and it’s just kind of a fun thing. He collapsed during the game.”
“It was just a tragic and awful thing,” Miller said.
Warhawk Nation mourns the loss of Derek Gray, a student-athlete on the Warhawk men's basketball team, who passed away unexpectedly on July 24th, 2022, playing the game he loved. pic.twitter.com/gHkyMr23NP
— Warhawk Athletics (@UWWAthletics) July 26, 2022
“It was just a very surreal situation where you’re thinking, ‘OK, he’s going to be all right,’ and then you’re very scared and the longer it went on, it became apparent that this was extraordinarily serious,” he said.
“I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of different things,” Miller said. “It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been a part of.”
“Words cannot describe how we all feel about the loss of Derek,” UW-Whitewater athletic director Ryan Callahan said.
“He was an amazing young man with a bright future. My heart goes out to his family and all that were fortunate enough to get to know Derek.”
Family, friends and teammates are continuing to mourn the sudden death of Derek Gray.
The 20-year-old @UWWAthletics men’s basketball player and Madison native died on Sunday.
— Kathryn Merck TV (@KathrynMerckTV) July 27, 2022