Meet An Important, Yet Unsung Pioneer Of UK Women's Athletics

Feb 25, 2020

All this month we are visiting with Reinette Jones who along with colleague Rob Aken, oversee the UK Libraries’ Notable Kentucky African Americans Database – a free online resource for anyone who wants to know more about the history of our commonwealth.  The database is full of little known stories of achievement, injustice, and agency of African Americans, past and present, and today we have the story of Lillian Nareen White, who holds the distinction of being the first African-American Female Basketball Player at the University of Kentucky.


Credit UK Libraries

White, Lillian Nareen:  It has almost gone unknown that she was the first African American female basketball player at the University Of Kentucky (UK). Lillian was recruited for the women's basketball team at the University of Kentucky, where she enrolled after graduating from high school in 1975. She was a scholarship player, and came to UK as a Kentucky West All Star. Her coach was Susan B. Feamster.  Lillian played defense; she came into the game off the bench as a guard or forward. She completed the basketball season and stayed at school during the spring semester. In the Spring of 1976, Lillian was selected to tryout as an alternate for the U.S. Olympics Women's Basketball team.  She represented Kentucky.  The coach of the team was the late Pat Head Summit and the tryouts were held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. Lillian didn't make the team, but says that she was honored to have been given the opportunity to tryout.  Meanwhile, back at the University of Kentucky, Lillian was having second thoughts about UK. The campus was large and being the first and only African American on the basketball team was more than she had prepared for in going to college. She had also tried running track at UK, but that too did not work out.  During the summer of 1976, Lillian left UK. She transferred to Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/300003675