After a successful launch to the series in 2021, the Unity Series returns on Dec. 21 with the Kentucky men’s basketball team hosting Florida A&M. The Unity Series is a five-year partnership with the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s to play an annual game between Kentucky and one of the SWAC’s member institutions inside of Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.
Kentucky welcomed Southern on Dec. 7, 2021, in the inaugural Unity Series between the Kentucky vs. institutions from the SWAC – which is made up of historically black college and universities – with the games set to seek to raise awareness of the missions of the HBCUs and to raise funds to provide opportunities for students at their institutions.
The game between the Cats and Florida A&M in 2022 will once again just be one piece of the annual meetings.
A year ago, the Wildcats and Southern participated in an educational field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum in Cincinnati, were given resources to better brand themselves in the new name-image-likeness space, were provided career center resources and participated in a joint dinner at John Calipari’s radio show.
In conjunction with the SWAC, Kentucky is aiming to expand and add to that programming in 2022. In addition to carry over of activities from last year, this season UK and the SWAC will honor Unity Series Legends, honoring a representative of each school who has a history as a trailblazer in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Warford was the first Black men’s basketball player to graduate from the University of Kentucky. He played for the Wildcats from 1973-76 and was a member of the NIT Championship squad in 1976 and the 1975 NCAA Tournament’s runner-up team. Warford was inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2019. He played for Drakesboro High School in Muhlenburg County where he was a second-team All-State selection after averaging 27 points per game his senior season. Warford passed away in May of 2022.
Johnson played at Florida A&M from 1974-78 where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in sports management. He was selected with the 44th pick of the NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers and played for 10 seasons. Johnson won an NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. Following his playing career, Johnson became an economics teacher and high school basketball coach in Tallahassee, Florida, before becoming a collegiate head coach. Johnson coached at both Alaska Fairbanks and Florida A&M. He was his alma matter’s head coach from 2007-11.
Johnson helped establish a Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Monticello, Florida, and is currently creating interest in refurbishing the old high school gymnasium in Monticello with intentions of establishing an after-school program concentrating on reading and writing, sports training and creating a community center in the area.