Former Kentucky basketball star Ed Davender suffered a severe heart attack Tuesday and is fighting for his life in the hospital, teammate Kenny Walker said Wednesday.
Davender turns 50 on May 26. Walker was among friends and former UK players holding a bedside vigil at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Davender’s mother was en route from North Carolina.
“It’s a serious situation,” Walker said. “He had a massive heart attack. He’s on a ventilator fighting for his life.”
Davender played at UK from 1984-85 through the 1987-88 season. He ranks 11th on the program’s career scoring list with 1,637 points and eighth on the career assists list with 436.
A productive player at both ends of the floor, Davender also ranks fourth on UK’s career list for steals (191).
“We all respect his attitude and the way he played the game,” Walker said. “He’s one of the greatest guards to ever play here at Kentucky.”
Davender led UK in steals in two seasons, in assists one season and in free-throw accuracy as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Davender, a McDonald’s All-American from Brooklyn, N.Y., started as a freshman in the 1984-85 season at a time when that was a novelty. Most first-year players were eased into a college team’s playing rotation.
Walker, who became Davender’s roommate at Kentucky, recalled then-UK assistant coach Leonard Hamilton asking him to help acclimate the freshman to college.
“I remember when Coach Ham brought him in, he said, ‘Kenny, I want you to be a big brother to him,’” Walker said. “I started laughing. ‘How can a guy from Roberta, Ga., be a big brother to a guy from Brooklyn?’ I took him under my wing and had a special relationship with him.
“It’s a tough, tough emotional deal.”
Other former UK players holding vigil at the hospital included Morehead State Coach Sean Woods, Derrick Millar and James Blackmon, who drove to Lexington from his home in Indiana when he learned of Davender’s heart attack.
Davender played for Joe B. Hall as a freshman. His final three college seasons were with coach Eddie Sutton.
“He was a real heady ball player,” Hall said Wednesday. “Really competitive. A good team man. He always gave his most every game (and) every practice.”
Davender learned the game on New York playgrounds, Hall said. The apartment Davender lived in with his mother and grandmother was only a block or so from a playground.
The Washington Bullets, as the team was then known, picked Davender in the third round of the 1988 NBA Draft. The discovery of a heart murmur led Davender to decide not to pursue a professional basketball career, Walker said
Setting basketball aside, Davender worked in Kentucky. He was convicted of committing a series of college basketball ticket scams in Fayette and other counties, including Harrison and Fleming. Victims lost tens of thousands of dollars in some of the cases.
Davender pledged in court to “pay every penny” of what he owed, his public defender, Dennis Shepperd, said in 2011.
Former UK teammate Rex Chapman also vouched for Davender paying back victims for their losses.
“I am positive that anybody Eddie D harmed or wronged in this whole deal will be repaid what they are owed,” Chapman said at the time. “It’s the kind of guy he is. It may take him some time, but I know he’ll make it right. It’s who he’s always been.”
Walker asked that Kentucky fans keep Davender in their thoughts.
“More than anything, he needs prayers to pull through,” Walker said. “That’s what we’re doing here. Trying to get some positive energy.
“We’re praying for our brother and our former teammate and friend. We love him and we’re just trying to send out positive energy.”