Muhlenberg Co. native and Kentucky basketball trailblazer Reggie Warford dies at 67
Warford became first Black men’s basketball player to graduate from UK
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WFIE) - Former Muhlenberg County basketball star Reggie Warford, who’s the first Black player to graduate from the University of Kentucky, passed away Thursday at the age of 67.
“Reggie Warford passed away this morning at home surrounded by his loving family,” UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said in a statement. “I know how much Reggie meant to Kentucky and how he inspired others, including Jack Givens and James Lee. Reggie and I worked together at Pitt in the 80s and have remained friends. I’m going to miss my brother, may God bless you, Reggie.”
Reggie Warford passed away this morning at home surrounded by his loving family. I know how much Reggie meant to Kentucky & how he inspired others.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 26, 2022
Reggie and I worked together at Pitt in the 80s and have remained friends.
I’m going to miss my brother, may God bless you Reggie.
Recruited out of Drakesboro High School in Muhlenberg County, Warford averaged 27 points per game during his senior season, which earned him second-team All-State honors. He was eventually inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2019.
Warford was the first signee for Joe B. Hall in 1972 after succeeding legendary UK coach Adolph Rupp, becoming only the second Black varsity player to ever take the court for the Wildcats in men’s basketball.
Warford played in 50 games over his four years in Lexington, scoring 206 career points. He was a member of the 1976 NIT Championship team, as well as part of the 1975 team that finished as the NCAA Tournament runner-up.
“Reggie Warford played an important role in the history of UK Athletics,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. “His career as a player and student, and his presence as a native Kentuckian, helped set the stage for the continued growth of integration of Kentucky basketball and our entire athletics program. We are deeply saddened by his passing and our condolences are with his family, friends and teammates.”
Following his collegiate career, Warford went on to become an assistant coach at Pittsburgh, Iowa State and Long Beach State. He served as the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters in 2003.
Warford won the United States Basketball Writer’s Association’s Most Courageous Award in 1984.
He coached at multiple high schools, including Muhlenberg County, and coached his sons.
Over the past decade, Warford battled various health issues and underwent multiple organ transplants.
While recovering from the transplants, Warford developed sarcopenia, a neuromuscular disease that robs the victim of muscle mass and strength. There is no cure.
In a 2019 interview with our sister station WKYT, Warford said he doesn’t want pity and that he’s lived a great life. He’s proud of the legacy he’s leaving for his wife and two sons, and the Black players who’ve come after him.
“As the eldest of the Kentucky African-American players,” he said, “I want ' em to know me. I want ‘em to know who I was. They don’t need to know every in and out, but I want ' em to know me...”
Know him, he said, as a man who could play the game as a good teammate, as a guy who helped bring a national title to his school, as well as someone of high character.
Warford is survived by his wife Marisa, and sons Grant and Tyler.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
It is with great sadness we share the passing of Reggie Warford. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and teammates.— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) May 26, 2022
Warford was an NIT Champion and the first Black men’s basketball player to graduate from the University of Kentucky.
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