College Basketball Player Suddenly Dies 'Playing the Game He Loved'

A University of Wisconsin, Whitewater basketball player died suddenly at the age of 20 July 24.

Madison, Wisconsin, native Derek Gray died “unexpectedly” while “playing the game he loved,” the university posted on Twitter in announcing his death.

Coach Pat Miller said the young man suffered a “cardiac event,” according to WKOW-TV. “He had a blockage.”

Miller told WISC-TV that Gray was “an incredible person.”

“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.”

The coach said Gray died at an event the team held on July 24.

“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.

The coach said there was no hint that Gray was having difficulty.

“He was not labored, there was nothing we saw,” Miller said, adding that he initially thought Gray had a seizure.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Gray, who attended La Follette High School in Madison, was a first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference guard last season, ranking second in the conference in steals, steals per game and total field goal attempts, according to his university bio.

Miller said Gray was looking to transfer to a different college.

“He had big plans, big aspirations. And, you know, we were working with him to do everything possible to make those happen,” the coach said.

“What he meant to our program, what he meant to me, what he meant to his teammates, it’s obviously something we’re never going to replace,” Miller said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.