By LARRY VAUGHT
Ed Davender was never a guy that gave up easily. He was one of the toughest players both physical and mentally I have watched during my 41 years covering Kentucky basketball.
I always liked him — and he always liked me. He never quit calling me “Mr. Vaught” and even during some troubled times in his life in recent years we still talked some and I stayed fond of him.
That’s why the news this week that he suffered a major heart attack and then died Thursday night at age 49 hit me so hard. Ed had some problems, but he was a good guy and one who teammates always loved.
He was recruited to Kentucky from Brooklyn by Joe B. Hall. He played one year for Hall and then three years for Eddie Sutton.
He never quite got the overall recognition he deserved. He was overshadowed early by Kenny Walker. Another teammate was Rex Chapman, one of the all-time favorite Cats.
Davender was potent on both ends of the floor. He scored 1,637 points and had 436 assists and 191 steals. No other UK player has ever had 1,500 or more points and 400 or more assists. He’s still the No. 11 all-time scorer at Kentucky and ranks fourth in steals and eighth in assists.
He could well be the best defensive guard I have seen play at Kentucky.
Washington made him a third round pick in the 1988 NBA draft but a heart murmur contributed to him not playing professional basketball. He returned to Kentucky to live and work. However, he was convicted of a ticket scam.
Recently he had seemed to be moving back the right direction and had worked for Lexington’s Parks and Recreation Department.
It had been about three months since I talked to him briefly. I regret I’ll never get to chat with him again and that I probably never told him how much I respected him as a player but even more so for doing all he could to get his life back together.