University of Wisconsin – Whitewater is mourning the loss of basketball star Derek Gray, who died unexpectedly on Sunday. He was 20 years old.
“I love him. He’s a beautiful person,” Warhawks head coach Pat Miller told local outlet Channel 3000 News. “He was an incredible person. He was a player, I had a lot of long conversations (with him) about life, basketball, family, and community. He was a very intelligent guy, very intuitive, and I really enjoyed his perspectives.”
Added Miller: “His teammates loved him. He had a really unique ability to connect with all his teammates in different ways.”
Gray’s official cause of death has yet to be released.
The UW-Whitewater athletic department tweeted he passed away “playing the game he loved” during an event held by the team Sunday.
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“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,” said Miller, adding that trainers immediately rushed to help Gray. First responders were also called to the scene.
Gray, a psychology major with a minor in criminology, was a two-year member of the Warhawk men’s basketball program; last season, he was third team D3hoops.com all region 9, first team all-WIAC and three-time WIAC player of the week, according to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He was on pace to graduate in 2024.
“Words cannot describe how we all feel about the loss of Derek,” UW-Whitewater Director of Intercollegiate Athletics 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.”
The UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team also issued a statement on Twitter, honoring Gray for not only his incredible athletic ability, but the impact he had on everyone around him.
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“Our program is devastated by the loss of Derek Gray. Derek was beloved and respected by his teammates at a level few in our program have ever achieved,” read the tweet. “He’s left a legacy that will be remembered and emulated by players for generations to come.”
The UW-Whitewater Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Club created a GoFundMe for Gray’s family to help cover funeral expenses for “a life gone too soon,” and has so far raised over $15,000 of its $20,000 goal.
Those whose lives were touched by Gray issued kind words in remembrance of the athlete, with one person writing, “Your energy and leadership on the court is an extraordinary legacy which will inspire young athletes for decades to come.”
Another added: “Our sincere condolences. We love you, Derek! Prayers to the family and friends of this beautiful soul.”