Reggie Warford, an NIT Champion and the first African-American men’s basketball player to graduate from the University of Kentucky, passed away Thursday at the age of 67, UK announced.
Warford (1973-76) appeared in 50 games for the Kentucky 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 in a press release. “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 after averaging 27 points per game his senior season.
Warford originally committed to Austin Peay but later 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.
“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.”
During UK’s 1976 NIT title season, Warford played in 28 games and shot 47% from the floor and 73% from the free-throw line. He became a starter late in the season and had 14 points to help UK rally past UNC-Charlotte in the title game.
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.
Warford later returned to coach Muhlenburg County and coached his sons Grant and Tyler.
He is survived by his wife Marisa, and sons Grant and Tyler.
Rest in the peace to one of the most important figures in UK men’s basketball history.