Ed Davender was one of UK’s most underrated players


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.


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  1. Thanks for writing this, Larry. It was emotional for me to read about Ed Davender’s life at UK and beyond. It is so sad to see one of our beloved and very talented players leave us at such a young age. We will always remember what joy he gave us fans with his effort and sweet personality. We all can learn from what you said about regretting the things you didn’t say to him. We have all felt that way at times.

  2. Ed was one fine basketball player who seemed to carry the team alone at times. He proved that a guard that could play on both ends of the floor could make the difference in almost any game. When Rex was averaging 16 ppg in ’86-’87 Davender was picking up 15.24. But there was more to his game than the stat line. He could turn a game around with his defense and his ball handling. He excelled at all aspects of the game IMO. He was a leader of that era even with Sky or Rex on his team.

    I hate to hear of anyone going too young. When it’s one of the members of the BBN I feel it like it happened when he was still playing. To me once a Cat always a Cat even if you make some mistakes in life. We’ve all made some.

    I was a big fan of Ed when he played. He was a great representative of the BBN spirit. He was a team first player who played hard all the time. You can’t ask for more from anyone. The rest comes from what the Lord gave you. But playing hard and playing for the team comes from our hearts.

    You will be missed Ed.

    1. You brought back some excellent memories for a lot of us, King.

    2. Great comments and insights King. Like you, I was a Davender fan

  3. Has anyone seen anything about his funeral or memorial service?

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