Hometown: Drakesboro, KY (High)
Position: G Playing Height: 6-1 Playing Weight: 165
Date(s) Committed: April 17, 1972 (Written)
Date of Birth: September 15, 1954
Date of Death: May 26, 2022
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Game by Game Statistics
Obituary - Reggie Warford, UK Basketball Player and Key Figure in Integration Efforts, Dies at 67, Louisville Courier-Journal (May 26, 2022) by Jon Hale
Warford was the first Black basketball player to spend four years at Kentucky and graduate from the university. He arrived on campus in 1972, two years after Tom Payne broke the color barrier in the program. Payne spent only one season at UK. (sic, Payne actually was at UK two seasons, one as a freshman and the second as a sophomore who played on the varsity team).
A Drakesboro, Kentucky, native, Warford had battled a variety of health issues over the last decade, undergoing multiple organ transplants. According to a 2019 story from WKYT, he developed sarcopenia, a neuromuscular disease that leads to the loss of muscle mass and strength, while recovering from the transplants.
"I know how much Reggie meant to Kentucky and how he inspired others," UK coach John Calipari tweeted Thursday."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, who initially committed to Austin Peay in high school, was the first recruit signed by Joe B. Hall after he replaced Adolph Rupp as Kentucky coach in 1972. A second-team All-State selection from Drakesboro High School, Warford averaged 26 points per game as a senior.
"I think that Coach Hall wanted me as much to be a person that would be here, that would do the right things, wouldn't mess up and attract other African American players after that," Warford said in a 2018 interview with UK's Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. "That's exactly what happened."
Across four seasons at Kentucky, Warford appeared in 50 games, averaging 4.1 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists per game in 28 games.
Warford was the only Black player on the team in Hall's first season as coach in 1972-73. He was joined by Larry Johnson and Merion Haskins in 1973. A year later, Kentucky signed Jack Givens and James Lee, who went on to form the nucleus of the 1978 national championship team.
"I used to say that I was the wrong guy to integrate Kentucky fully," Warford said. "The reason I used to say that is because whenever you see the story about the first African American player to go someplace, he had to be super special, he had to be beyond the pale. The Jackie Robinsons, Perry Wallace at Vanderbilt. You had to be extraordinary for your story to be told. I made this comment and one of the guys said, 'Wait a minute, That wasn't what needed to be told.'
"... My value to the University of Kentucky was not by how well I dribbled a basketball or shot a basketball. My purpose was to show other men of my ethnicity what was possible here."
After his playing career, Warford worked as an assistant coach at Pittsburgh, Iowa State and Long Beach State. He spent one year as the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. Warford's last season as an assistant at Pitt in 1985-86 coincided with Calipari's first seasons as an assistant there.
He coached at multiple high schools, including Muhlenberg County. In 2019, Warford was inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame.
"Reggie Warford played an important role in the history of UK Athletics," UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "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."