ATLANTA — Kevin Ware sat in front of a table filled with Louisville gear at the team hotel, sweatshirts and mugs and hats and T-shirts commemorating his team’s second straight trip to the Final Four. Ware’s right leg, the shattered tibia that caused a nation to wince last Sunday, was out of frame, his cast hidden from the camera that was beaming the images to the set of “The Late Show With David Letterman” in New York.
Ever since Ware’s shinbone poked through his leg during Louisville’s Midwest Region final win over Duke in Indianapolis, the Cardinals’ narrative has justifiably shifted toward one of recent memory’s most gruesome injuries. But Ware has taken everything with characteristic stoicism. He began walking on crutches the day after surgery. He traveled with the team to Atlanta, the national attention now centered squarely on the injured guard. And Friday night, he presented Letterman’s top 10. The leg will heal. Ware will play basketball again, hopefully next season. Might as well forget about the injury and move on.
Ware took the list in stride, reading zingers like “Nine: I hope this doesn’t leave a bruise”; “Three: They fired Leno?” and “One: At least my bracket’s not busted.” And with all the attention now heaped onto Ware, his teammates, favored to win the NCAA tournament since Selection Sunday, can focus more on No. 9 Wichita State, Saturday’s Final Four opponent.
“I don’t think the attention has really been taxing on anybody,” guard Peyton Siva said Friday. “I think, if anything, I’m just glad to know Kevin Ware now even more, because he’s probably the most famous person I know. You know, when you have Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama call you, it’s pretty good to say I know that person. It’s pretty amazing. I think it’s more taxing on Kevin than any of us.”
Ware stayed behind at the team hotel instead of attending Friday’s media day, understandably taxed from the past few days. Per USA Today, Ware will still sit with the Cardinals on the bench on Saturday night, while Louisville deals with a shortened back court devoid of a key reserve. Junior Tim Henderson, a walk-on who’s honed his skills guarding star Russ Smith in practice this season, will likely counted upon to play extra minutes.
“We’re going to support him the best way we can” center Gorgui Dieng said. “Every Final Four team has a topic that people want to focus on. Kevin’s getting all the attention, and I’m sure he’s going to handle it well. He can have all the attention. We don’t need it. Once we step on the floor, we’re going to play our role. Every team that wins the national championship, they play their role. Everyone knows what’s at stake. It’s going to be an ugly game, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Said swingman Wayne Blackshear: “It’s going to take everybody to fill in. Earlier this year a lot of us had to step up. Tim Henderson is really going to have to step up. A lot of people don’t really know how Tim is a great player. he’s had to guard Russ and Peyton in practice and he’s going to get to show his talent.”