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15 Reggie Warford

Reggie Warford
Hometown (Last School)
Drakesboro, KY (High)
1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76
September 15, 1954

Reggie Warford, an NIT Champion and the first Black men’s basketball player to graduate from the University of Kentucky, died Thursday. He was 67.

Warford (1973-76) appeared in 50 games for the Wildcats and scored 206 career points. He was a member of the 1976 NIT Championship team and part of the 1975 team that finished as the NCAA Tournament runner-up.

“Reggie Warford passed away this morning at home surrounded by his loving family,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “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.”

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.  He led Drakesboro to a three-year 73-24 record.  He scored 1,940 career points, averaging 20.0 ppg and 6.3 rebounds.  He averaged 25.2 ppg and 10.4 rebounds as a senior.  He led his team to the finals of Regional, losing to eventual state champion Owensboro.  He also averaged 4.7 career assists and earned four letters in baseball.

Warford originally committed to Austin Peay but became Joe B. Hall’s first recruit as head coach for Kentucky. Warford was the second Black athlete to suit up for the Wildcats in men’s basketball, but the first to play all four seasons and graduate from the University. He earned a degree in arts and sciences and would go on to earn a master’s degree from Murray State in education.

A fast, super-quick southpaw, Warford showed steady improvement his Freshman season and led the frosh in scoring with 17.5 ppg and in shooting with 45.3% from the field.  He also led in fouls and turnovers.  He was an eager student of the game and had an outstanding take-off which allowed him to take the hesitation shot or feed off to the open man.  Played two minutes in one varsity game his freshman season, failing to score.   He was presented the Freshman Leadership Award.

As a sophomore, he saw action in seven games, totaling 14 minutes playing time.  His greatest asset was super-quickness and accurate outside shooting.

The lone senior in 1976, it was Warford, with a 6.8 scoring average, who spearheaded the Wildcats 71-67 victory over the University North Carolina at Charlotte in the finals of the NIT.
His driving left-side layup put UK ahead 60-59, and his 15-foot jumpshot gave the Wildcats a 64-63 advantage, a lead they never relinquished.  At season’s end he won trophies for Fewest Turnovers with 46 and Outstanding Senior.  He received the Scholastic Award for the the top scholar athlete over four-year and the 110 Percenter Award.

There were times, Reggie Warford admits, when he thought about transferring from Kentucky. Maybe he could find a smaller school where he could play more.  But Reggie Warford was haunted.  “When I tried to decide what to do,” he says. “I kept thinking about all those who said I’d never make it at Kentucky. I guess I’ve showed them.”

Following his career at UK, Warford spoke highly of the UK that many critics condemn as being to regimented:  “UK has probably the best basketball program in the country, although the pressure is greater, the people treat you the best. UK has probably the best, or one of the best, living conditions for their athletes, it has the interest, and it has the most tradition. At Kentucky, the players may not wind up being great players but you see very few bad people coming out of Kentucky, that is a tribute to the program.”

On the night of September 24, 1983, he became a hero, breaking down the door of a burning house, then risked his life three times to save an elderly couple.  Then, instead of waiting around for the glory, Warford declined to give his name to firefighters and quietly faded into the night before anyone could know that he was the former player who was captain of UK’s 1976 National Invitation Tournament champions.  His boss, head coach Roy Chipman at Pittsburgh, was with him that night, and he was so impressed by Warford’s courage that he wanted the story told.  That’s how it came to that Warford found himself in the office of the governor of Kentucky, blinking into bright TV lights while John Y. Brown Jr. presented him the Medal of Valor.  He received the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association Award for courage for the same act of heroism.

“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 also returned to coach Muhlenburg County and coached his sons Grant and Tyler.  He directed the Mustangs to the Sweet Sixteen in his first year as coach.

He is survived by his wife Marisa, and sons Grant and Tyler.



Career Totals


On This Day In UK Basketball History

On June 24, 2010, Kentucky had five players drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. John Wall became the first Wildcat ever named the overall No. 1 pick when he was selected by the Washington Wizards.  DeMarcus Cousins was selected fifth by the Sacramento Kings, Patrick Patterson went 14th to the Houston Rockets, Eric Bledsoe went 18th to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Daniel Orton was picked 29th by the Orlando Magic.


Wildcats Born on This Date

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