The first time West High soccer coach Kaleb Kuehn saw Bubacar Touray, it was the fall of 2015. Touray was a junior and a newcomer to the school, and he was playing pickup soccer in the school gym during his lunch break.
“You could see how talented an athlete he was,” said Kuehn, who encouraged Touray to try out for the soccer team come springtime.
Touray went on to break West High’s single-season scoring record and become Alaska’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017. He starred for two seasons at a Washington community college and was hoping to win a spot on an NCAA Division I soccer roster this season.
Touray, 21, died suddenly at a Seattle area hospital last week from what is believed to have been a brain aneurysm, Kuehn said.
“Bubacar — we called him Buba — was one of the most talented athletes to come out of our program or the state of Alaska,” Kuehn said. “It’s hard for me to process. When’s the last time you heard of a 21- or 22-year-old who dies from a brain aneurysm?”
Kuehn said that as far as he knew, Touray did not have a history of concussions.
“He was a very healthy kid. A very fit kid,” he said.
Touray was a phenom on the soccer pitch and dear friend to many away from it.
Greyson Adams, a former high school teammate, said his last contact with Touray came earlier this month on Instagram after Adams announced a fundraiser he’s doing for the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center. Touray responded with a gratitude emoji.
About a week later, Adams’ family was making a donation to a GoFundMe campaign set up to offset the costs of Touray’s funeral expenses. Donations came from nearly 600 people who raised more than $22,000.
Known for an easy smile and friendly demeanor, Touray was popular among Anchorage soccer players. “I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him,” Adams said.
Touray grew up in Gambia, where he developed his love for soccer as well as many of his skills. His family moved to the United Kingdom and then Seattle before coming to Anchorage the summer before Touray’s junior year, Adams and Kuehn said.
“He lived and breathed the game,” Adams said.
Adams said Touray was a little timid when they first met at a club soccer practice in the summer of 2015. Touray was smaller than most of the others, “but he was really good technically on the ball, and he had a little flair,” Adams said.
“His confidence just shot through the roof (in high school),″ he added. “The kid would take on anyone 1-on-1, and he did the craziest things, but they always worked.
“It was always super exciting to watch him and play with him.”
A creative goal-scorer, Touray scored 44 goals in 35 games in two seasons at West High. As a senior, he racked up 25 goals to break the single-season school record of 24 set by Laef Eggan, who went on to coach the Eagles and was one of Touray’s first coaches in organized soccer.
At Tacoma Community College in Washington, Touray scored eight goals and 17 points in 20 games as a freshman and turned in an MVP season as a sophomore.
He scored 25 goals — four of them game-winning goals — and 55 points in 23 games, scoring on a staggering 41.7% of his shots. He led Tacoma his team to a 20-1-2 record and the league championship.
“Buba was electrifying on the field with his deft touches on the ball, his ability to beat any defender 1 on 1, and his goal-scoring instinct,” said Jack Green, another West High teammate of Touray’s. “Buba always pushed me on the field to be better and strive for greatness.”
Green, a Division I player at American University, was Alaska’s 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year and hopes to see his Player of the Year banner hang next to Touray’s at West High.
“Buba was always a person to look up to,” he said. “We talked about the desire to play professionally at some point in our careers and after high school we frequently chatted about our progress.”
Touray spent the last year living in the Seattle area and playing elite-level amateur soccer. Kuehn said he was a good student who was working for a chance to play at Seattle University or the University of Washington.
Kuehn and Adams both said they heard that Touray had complained of headaches the week before he died. Kuehn spoke with a man who coached Touray on a team of Gambian players in Seattle this summer, and Adams communicated with one of Touray’s cousins in Seattle.
Both were told that Touray went to a hospital complaining of the pain and was sent home after testing negative for COVID-19. When he returned a few days later, Kuehn said, he fell into a coma and died at the hospital. His funeral service was last Thursday in Lynnwood, Washington.
An earlier version of this story included a photo of a player who was incorrectly identified as Bubacar Touray. Additionally, it misstated the year Jack Green was the Gatorade Player of the Year and the college he currently plays for.
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