In a poignant and heart-wrenching turn of events, former Wisconsin basketball player Walt McGrory bid us farewell on Saturday after a valiant struggle against a rare pediatric bone cancer. He was just 24 years old when his journey on this earth came to an end, leaving behind a legacy that transcends the court.

On Monday, a message from the depths of his spirit emerged on his Instagram account, declaring, “His soul was freed to continue his great mission — to live and help others live full, healthy lives.” Walt McGrory was more than a basketball player; he was a symbol of resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Standing tall at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 205 pounds, McGrory had once graced the courts for the Badgers from 2017 to 2021. His prowess on the hardwood was matched only by his dedication to academics, earning him the prestigious title of a two-time Academic All-Big Ten student.

In a twist of fate, McGrory had planned to take his talents to South Dakota in April 2021, but destiny had other plans. It was then that he received the life-altering diagnosis of osteosarcoma.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard paid tribute to the young athlete, saying, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Walt McGrory. The courage and fight that Walt demonstrated throughout his two-year battle with cancer was an inspiration to us all. Walt never quit. Instead, he chose to fight every day and made the most of his circumstances by sharing his journey and inspiring others. Walt was a beloved member of our team and the Badger family, and we will miss him dearly.”

Before his college years, McGrory had already left an indelible mark on the basketball world. He was a standout at Edina High School in Minnesota, where he etched his name in history as the school’s all-time leading scorer, amassing an astounding 2,126 points.

Walt’s journey with the Badgers began as a walk-on in 2017 before his transfer to the University of South Dakota. During his senior season, he displayed remarkable skill, averaging an impressive 26.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game.

Tragedy struck in August 2021, a mere five months after his transfer to South Dakota, when McGrory was diagnosed with bone cancer. Asked earlier in 2023 if he was in denial upon hearing the diagnosis, McGrory told KARE 11 in Minnesota, “I don’t know if it’s denial. It’s just more like, ‘Well, this will be over soon.’ I don’t really need to think about it much.”

In April, Walt underwent a life-altering amputation of his left leg, a decision he confronted with unwavering strength. He shared, “I didn’t look down right away. I mean, I had the blanket over it and I didn’t really want to look at it for the first few days. I’m not ashamed of it or anything. I’ll go to Lifetime Fitness or the gym and I’ll have the crutches.”

Throughout his tumultuous battle, McGrory remained a beacon of hope. He chronicled his cancer journey on social media, often capturing poignant moments during his treatments.

In July 2022, the cancer, once believed to be in remission, returned with a vengeance, spreading within his body. Yet, Walt’s spirit remained unbroken as he declared, “Put it out there to the world, the universe, I guess — that you want to keep living, you know? You kind of do whatever it takes to keep going. That makes me a lot stronger than I’d be on my own.”

Walt McGrory is survived by his parents, Matthew and Jean, and his sister Mary Claire, a basketball talent in her own right who played for Creighton. His memory will forever live on as an embodiment of courage and resilience in the face of adversity. Walt McGrory may have left the court, but his indomitable spirit will forever inspire us to never give up the fight, no matter the odds.