Warhawks mourn loss of beloved basketball player

“He was beloved”


Parker Olsen, Men’s Sports Editor

On July 24, 2022, UW-Whitewater men’s basketball player Derek Gray died unexpectedly in Whitewater. Gray was working at a UW-Whitewater basketball camp for youth when he suddenly collapsed due to a blood clot in his heart. Gray had celebrated his 20th birthday just five days prior.
The basketball player was well known for his performance on the court. He led the Warhawks in the 2021-22 season in scoring, rebounds, 3-point field goal percentage, and steals. He was the fifth highest scorer in the WIAC, was part of the first team All-WIAC, and named third team All-Region 9 by D3hoops.
Off the court Gray was beloved by his teammates and many other people in his life, he left an impact on a wide range of people. Whitewater’s Head Coach Pat Miller spoke highly of Gray’s character and his positive impact on so many people.
“Just a great kid, a really smart kid, a great leader, he was really fun to be around,” Miller said. “He just had a unique ability to connect with people, all types of people, and I think that’s one of the reasons he was so beloved. His connections were sincere.”
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Ryan Callahan called Gray the “epitome of a team first player” who had a bright future ahead of him.
“I’m hopeful we can all reflect on Derek’s life and the impact all of us have on a daily basis. If we can all do that, then his legacy will live on,” Callahan said.
Both Callahan and Miller reflected on the impact Gray had on the people around him and the communities he touched.
“Derek had an amazing impact on everyone he encountered. Whether it was his community back home or the campus community,” Callahan said.
“He cared about people, he cared about community and cared about the community he came from. He was always thinking and talking about that and what impact he could have,” Miller said.
Miller was struck by Gray’s impact and character when preparing to speak at his funeral. He reached out to people from throughout Gray’s life to try to fully encapsulate him, one common trait stuck out. “Simply, he was a very very nice guy.”
“The more people I talked to, it didn’t matter if they were from when he was little or in high school, everyone said the same thing. I thought that was a neat thing and a neat characteristic, that he was him through and through from beginning to end,” Miller said.
Miller described Gray as someone who had a “remarkable relationship with his family,” and that “his brothers and their wellbeing was always on the forefront of his mind.”
Through a Go Fund Me, over $20,000 were raised to help the Gray family cover the funeral expenses.
“It’s been a lot of people working together, and that’s one thing I will say, the amount of support and outreach has been extraordinary,” Miller said. “There’s just been a lot of people who have been extraordinarily helpful and supportive, that has meant a lot to his family and certainly has meant a lot to us as a program.”
According to Miller the team has tried to stay in communication and has encouraged communication as they grieve. He called it a devastating loss for everyone Gray touched and said that the potential he had to impact the world is crushing to think about.
A memorial event is planned for Friday, Sept. 9, from 4-6 p.m. at the DLK Gymnasium as an opportunity for the Whitewater community to honor Gray. Plans to honor him during the basketball season are in the works and will become more concrete as students return to campus. Miller hopes that they will be able to include a wide range of people because of the wide range of people that Gray touched in his life.
Gray graduated from Madison La Follette High School in 2020 and was a psychology major entering his third year at Whitewater, he was set to graduate in the spring of 2024. Derek is survived by his parents, three brothers, a sister, as well as grandparents and many uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.