LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kevin Ware is pretty certain how his next few months will play out.
After we win the national championship, the injured Louisville guard said with a smile on his face, I’m just looking forward to rehab.
Ware is already set for his next step, though he is gingerly walking around on crutches and with his surgically repaired broken leg in a cast up to his right knee: He is heading to the Final Four.
Ware was cleared Wednesday by doctors to accompany the Cardinals on their hour-long flight to Atlanta. The sophomore plans to be a full participant in preparations for Saturday’s game against Wichita State.
He said the overwhelming support he has received has helped him maintain his spirits and strengthened his confidence of a full recovery. He hopes by next season to be helping the Cardinals defend the national championship he believes they’ll win this weekend.
The normally reserved 20-year-old calmly recalled how he felt when he suffered the devastating injury, saying he doesn’t think Louisville would be in the Final Four if he had lost his composure.
Ware credits teammate Luke Hancock for calming him down.
He got me to that point where I really had to put the pain on hold, said Ware, with his leg in a cast propped up on a couch. Once he said his prayer, I was kind of thinking the whole time, you can either be a crybaby about it or you’re going to get your team back and get them in the right mindset.’
Luke said his words, and I just kept repeating, y’all gotta go win this game.’ I’m fine. ... It really helped the team.
But it wasn’t easy for the Cardinals, many of whom cried after seeing Ware’s gruesome injury – his bone protruding six inches through his skin.
Even Louisville coach Rick Pitino was emotional, wiping tears from his eyes and later saying that the sight of his player’s injury almost made him vomit.
But Pitino said everyone’s emotions have settled down knowing that it appears Ware will be OK.
I think we’re all fine now, Pitino said. Just having Kevin around, we can exhale.
The coach said having Ware in Atlanta might provide the Cardinals with a little extra emotion, but in his experience the team that executes the best will win.
Ware underwent a two-hour operation at Methodist Hospital to repair compound fractures of the tibia that left the leg at an odd angle. He awoke the next morning to discover he had become an overnight sensation, and the afterglow hasn’t waned.
Ware said he has heard from several of his NBA idols, including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Charles Barkley. The Louisville guard said he has even heard from first lady Michelle Obama and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
I had no idea I would get this kind of attention, he said. I’m one of those guys who just likes to play basketball. But the injury opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes and I really appreciate all the support. It really means a lot.
As Ware prepares to head to Atlanta with his team, he’s unsure how he’ll celebrate if the Cardinals fulfill their mission. Ware joked at climbing the ladder to cut down the nets but will likely settle for just being part of the action.
Whatever I see on the court, he said, I will tell them about it.