A basketball player for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater passed away this week after suffering a “cardiac event” while at a summer basketball practice.
“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,” the school’s athletic department said in a statement.
“It was a cardiac event,” UW-Whitewater Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Miller told local media. “He had a blockage.”
“He was a great kid,” Miller said following Gray’s passing. “He was very intelligent. He and I had long talks about basketball, life and family. He was a very engaging, sincere person. He was loved by his teammates. He had an ability to connect with people. And he showed up and played hard — to do what he could for the team. There are not enough good things I can say about him. The shock of this is beyond words.”
Miller said that when Gray collapsed, he initially believed the player was experiencing a seizure.
“It was just a very surreal situation where you’re thinking, ‘Okay, 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,” Miller said. “I’ve been around for a long time, I’ve seen a lot of different things. It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been a part of.”
Gray’s high school, Madison’s La Follette High School, put out a statement remembering his time as a student athlete at the school.
“On behalf of Principal Mat [Thompson] and all [La Follette] High School Staff, it is with a profound sense of sadness that the La Follette community mourns the unexpected loss of former Lancer, Derek Gray,” Assistant Principal Cullen Haskins wrote in a statement. “Derek was a giant of La Follette basketball and Lancer athletics, and was at his best in the toughest games and most challenging moments. He was a true ‘gamer.’ His toughness and tenacity on the court will always be remembered, and his kindness and smile off the court forever missed.”
“As a well known student-athlete and basketball standout, his presence and impact on the La Follette community was far-reaching,” the statement continued. “His life, both on and off the court, had an enormous impact on all those who knew him. As we process this tremendous loss for our community, we ask you to join us in keeping Derek’s friends, teammates, and family in our thoughts.”