Robert Traylor, the former NBA and University of Michigan big man nicknamed "Tractor" because of his hulking frame, has died in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was 34.
Described as a "gentle giant" with a generous smile, Traylor played seven years in the NBA. He is perhaps most remembered, however, for his career at Michigan, where he was a standout for three seasons but became embroiled in a major scandal involving a booster.
Police in San Juan said Traylor was found dead Wednesday on the bedroom floor of his oceanfront apartment. Police and Traylor's team, the Bayamon Cowboys, said he had been missing for a few days and apparently died of a heart attack.
"He was a leader of the team," said Jose Carlos Perez, the Cowboys' manager. "He was very, very friendly. He got along very well with everyone. The fans loved him, idolized him."
Perez told The Associated Press that Traylor had been talking by phone to his wife in Chicago when the connection was suddenly cut off. She called team officials Wednesday and they checked on him, Perez said.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Traylor was injured and had not been playing, the team said.
Traylor got his "Tractor" nickname in high school, then went to Michigan shortly after the departures of Fab Five stars Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose.
Part of another highly touted recruiting class that arrived in 1995, Traylor played three seasons with the Wolverines. He was the most valuable player of the NIT in 1997 and averaged 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds the following season, when Michigan won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament.
"We are saddened to hear about the loss of a former student-athlete, Robert Traylor," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "Our sympathies go out to his family during this difficult time."
Although he was productive on the court, Traylor was one of the Michigan players whose ties to booster Ed Martin resulted in NCAA sanctions against the basketball program.
Traylor's survivors include his wife and two sons.
Turgeon: 'It was time'
Before he accepted the offer to become Maryland basketball coach, Mark Turgeon needed to get the lowdown on the job from Gary Williams.
Williams held the post for 22 years before retiring, and Turgeon was poised to become his successor. Working at a school with a great basketball tradition was very appealing to Turgeon, who had spurned several other opportunities to move during his four years at Texas A&M.
After speaking at length with Williams on Sunday night, Turgeon knew it was time to leave College Station for College Park — even if it meant replacing an iconic coach.
"If I was apprehensive, I wouldn't be standing here," Turgeon said at his formal introduction Wednesday. "I had a great conversation with Gary, and he made me feel comfortable. I know Gary's not going to try to sabotage Maryland basketball."
The comment drew a roar of laughter in a room filled with Maryland alumni, former players and booster club members.
Current Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson was beaming about the results of his quick and efficient quest to replace Williams, who announced his retirement late last week.
"It's a great day to be a Terp," Anderson declared.
Vols sign some size
Yemi Makanjuola, a 6-9 post player, has committed to Tennessee, according to Rivals.com. He is the fourth prospect to sign with Tennessee in the late period.
ESPN is on deck
The Morale Entertainment Foundation said ESPN will televise the Carrier Classic game between Michigan State and North Carolina on the deck of an aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay on Veterans Day.