Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, known as Trai, is now best known as the suspected serial killer, who until his arrest on Tuesday, had been terrorizing a Tampa neighborhood for over a month.
But before that, he was better known as Trai Donaldson, a basketball player. According to one of his teammates at Tampa’s Alonso High, who spoke to Heavy.com, Donaldson was a team captain who “didn’t even smoke weed.” After he graduated from high school in 2011, Donaldson, a guard, walked on to the basketball team at St. John’s.
“He was a walk-on student-athlete for the men’s basketball team during the 2011–2012 season but never played in a game,” the University said.
Donaldson graduated from St. John’s in January. His former teammate from Alonso High said he thinks police have the wrong guy.
In the ten years that I’ve known the guy, been friends with him, I’ve never even seen him or heard of him getting into a fight or physical altercation. Trai was the captain on my basketball team. You wouldn’t believe this, yes he was that guy. We graduated together in 2011 from Alonso High School.
The police are doing their job, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. I mean it’s a bad look. You’re in the area and you match the description and all that, but the dude has never even been arrested before, you know what I mean? Yes, we used to do some stupid teenage stuff back in the day, but we never did anything extreme, just typical teenager pranks. Maybe we’d heckle people together at a football game for example, but absolutely never did anything that would cause anybody any harm, ever. And that was far from what our real lives were like on a day-to-day basis. It was all about basketball, chilling, hanging out and having a good time.
The police, naturally, say there’s no doubt they have the right man. If they’re right, Donaldson wouldn’t be the first serial killer with a connection to the sports world. Randall Woodfield, who became known as the “I-5 Bandit” for a string of murders in Washington, Oregon and California beginning in 1979, was a 1974 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who was cut during training camp.