A former high school and college basketball standout from Fairfield County died from complications tied to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at the age of 46.
Matt Gras, a star center at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, who had been in a long battle with cerebellar ataxia, died on Wednesday, April 15 due to the virus, the school’s athletic department announced.
"Matt was a gentleman who matured into a very good person and basketball player," former head coach Mike Deane said. "It was a pleasure to interact with him during our three years together and afterward, as he was also my financial broker later in life.”
The 6-foot-10 Gras, who starred for the Saints in the 1990s played in 114 games and helped lead the team on a lengthy run in the 1994 NIT Tournament that culminated in Madison Square Garden.
Gras may be most well-remembered for his 1994 NIT performance, in which he played a key role in leading the Saints to a third-place finish at Madison Square Garden. He averaged 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds spanning five NIT games, highlighted by his first collegiate double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the consolation game victory over Kansas State.
Gras' 36 career rebounds are most all-time in Siena's NIT history, while his 77 total points rank second-most.
“If there is something good to come of this unfortunate circumstance, it is that I have had a chance to reconnect with everyone during this time, and I have a great source of pride for all that our young men from those teams have accomplished. I wish Matt peace, and am thankful for all that he gave to the program," Deane added.
Originally from Seymour, Gras played alongside fellow Siena star Doremus Bennerman at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull. Gras was a 1,000-point scorer for the Cadets, and averaged 22.4 points and 12.5 rebounds during his senior season en route to being named Player of the Year.
Gras and Bennerman were part of a St. Joseph men's basketball team that was recently enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame.
"This whole situation has been tough, and I'm heartbroken for Matt's family," Bennerman said. "We got to a point at Siena where we were so close from our time together in high school and college. We always knew we had each other's backs."
Gras is survived by his mother, Carolyn, stepfather Spike Jones, daughter, Chloe, brother, Bryan, sister-in-law Kristen, nephews Tyler and Evan, sister Nicole, and former wife, Jennifer. Additional information on Gras' passing will be shared here as it becomes available.
“Matt was a delight to be around, and nobody ever had a bad word to say about him,” Deane said. “I hope he can rest in peace now, because I know that he was struggling of late because of his disease, and I know that he will be sorely missed by all.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.