Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Former Warhawk honored with basketball tournament

(Graphic edited by Athelesia Schmaelzle)

Former UW-Whitewater men’s basketball coach and current Brandtek employee Pat Miller teamed up with Wisconsin Badgers shooting guard Connor Essegian for the CE 3v3 Basketball Tournament Sunday, Oct. 1 to raise money for the Derek Gray Memorial Foundation and Scholarship Fund. 

In July of 2022 Derek Gray, a member of UW-Whitewater’s basketball program, tragically passed away after a cardiac episode at a kids basketball clinic in Whitewater. In the past year Miller has worked with Gray’s mother, Traci Pine, to find a way to honor his legacy. They created the Derek Gray Memorial and Scholarship Fund to benefit kids in the Madison area where Gray attended La Follette High School. 

“Since Derek’s death, I have wanted to do something in his honor,” Miller said. “I talked to his mom, and we wanted to raise money for the Derek Gray Memorial Foundation and use it as scholarships for Madison area kids.”

In the 2022-23 basketball season, Essegian had a breakout year for the Wisconsin Badgers and quickly became a fan favorite and a household name within the community. Miller saw a post on social media in which Essegian mentioned the idea of a charity basketball tournament and reached out. The local celebrity was eager to use his platform to connect with the public in a positive way. 

“I have been looking for a way to interact with Madison. Not just at the playing level, but something for the community to bring everyone together,” Essegian said. “I always wanted to host my own tournament for fun, but being able to do it for something bigger than myself and for Derek is something I really wanted to be a part of.”

The main event was a 3v3 double-elimination basketball tournament for kids from sixth grade through college. In addition to the tournament there was a dunk contest and a 3-point contest that featured athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball teams at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater. In addition to the funds raised for the Derek Gray scholarship, the event, sponsored by Brandtek, focused on cardiac awareness, particularly in young athletes, and community health advocacy for African American men. Gray’s death has left a lasting impact on many individuals between Whitewater and Madison, the tournament served as an opportunity for people to come together to celebrate the positive impact left by Gray.

“It has been a really difficult thing to navigate,” Miller said. “From my perspective I just want to do something to honor his legacy and keep that alive, this was an easy and natural fit.”

The contributions of Miller, Essegian, Pine, Brandtek and others involved with the event truly shows the number of people that want to carry on the legacy of Gray and keep his name alive through the game he loved. 

The inaugural CE 3v3 basketball tournament marked the first of many events to come to raise money for the Derek Gray Memorial Foundation and Scholarship Fund. Gray’s legacy will be survived by the foundation and the local Madison area kids it is intended to benefit.

“It is a good example of people coming together and finding commonality, and supporting various initiatives,” Miller said. “Having someone like Connor use his platform in a very positive way is really good. I am always happy to be a part of things that bring people together and do positive things.”

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About the Contributor
Mikey Rottier
Mikey Rottier, Men's Sports Journalist

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