Former UM hoops star Robert 'Tractor' Traylor dies at 34
Last Updated: May 11. 2011 3:12PM
Robert Traylor | 1977-2011
Friends, coaches stunned by death of former U-M hoops star
Rod Beard, Eric Lacy and Tom Markowski / / The Detroit News
Former Michigan star basketball player and Detroit native Robert "Tractor" Traylor was found dead in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday.
According to his professional team, Vaqueros de Bayamon, Traylor suffered a massive heart attack. He was 34.
Traylor was a high school All-American at Detroit Murray-Wright before going on to play U-M from 1995-98. He averaged 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds during his junior season, leading the Wolverines to the NIT title in 1997 and a championship in the first Big Ten Tournament in 1998.
Traylor left U-M after his junior season and was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1998 NBA draft and traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for the rights to Dirk Nowitzki.
"We are saddened by the loss of former Michigan basketball player, Robert Traylor," U-M athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "Our sympathies go out to the family during this difficult time."
In 2002, Traylor was at the center of the Ed Martin scandal — along with Chris Webber, Louis Bullock and Maurice Taylor — that rocked the University of Michigan. The NCAA found that the four players had received more than $600,000 in cash from Martin, who was a U-M booster, which led to severe NCAA sanctions, probation and vacated wins during his college career.
Nicknamed "Tractor" because of his large build — 6-foot-8, 300-plus pounds — Traylor played for four NBA teams, including two stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played his final season in 2005. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds over his seven-year career.
News of Traylor's death shocked Steve Fishman, Traylor's lawyer, when contacted by The Detroit News.
"He was a gentle giant," Fishman said. "And he would do anything to help younger players. If you knew his background and the challenges he faced, you couldn't help but be impressed with what he accomplished."
Willie Mitchell and Traylor were teammates at Michigan for one season (1994-95), but their relation ship went further back.
Mitchell played at Detroit Pershing, was Mr. Basketball in '94, and played Traylor's team, Murray-Wright, in the Class A state final that season. Murray-Wright won its only state title that season, defeating Pershing, the two-time defending champion, 86-64. Traylor was a junior that year, and Mr. Basketball his senior year.
"I've known Robert since he was 14," Mitchell said. "He was a freak of nature. He was a bundle of joy to be around. Anytime he stepped into a room, he filled it with laughter. I just heard of his death. I knew he was playing in the Puerto Rican League and he was playing well. I hadn't talked to him in six months or so."
Former Murray-Wright High School athletic director Robert Glenn, like most, was caught off guard by the news of Traylor's death.
Glenn, who also is ''a Murray-Wright graduate, communicated with Traylor on Facebook about two days ago.
"This caught me by surprise," Glenn said. "(I'm) waiting to find out what happened. This is a sad day for many Murray-Wright alumni."
Check back with detnews.com for updates throughout the day
Staff writer Darren Nichols contributed to this report
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110511/SPO ... z1M4c1icA7