Reggie Warford, first Black UK basketball player to graduate, has died

Reggie Warford, first Black UK basketball player to graduate, has died
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 9:22 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Reggie Warford, UK’s first Black basketball player to graduate, has died.

According to the Herald-Leader, Warford passed away early Thursday morning.

In 1972, Joe B. Hall recruited Warford out of Drakesboro High School in Muhlenberg County. Reggie averaged 20 points per game as a junior and 27 as a senior – numbers that helped land him in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

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.

About a decade ago, Reggie suffered heart failure and eventually underwent two transplant procedures.

The first time, the donor heart failed before it was implanted. Another heart, this one healthy, became available and this time the transplant worked. But then, another setback - his kidneys failed, prompting another kind of organ transplant.

As he recovered from the transplants, Reggie developed sarcopenia, a neuromuscular disease that robs the victim of muscle mass and strength. There is no cure.

In a 2019 interview with 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; and as someone of high character. It’s a legacy that will live as long as Big Blue fans talk about the Wildcats.

Warford was 67. He is survived by his wife Marisa, and sons Grant and Tyler.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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