Kevin Ware on his final season at Louisville: 'It was a bad year'

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Kevin Ware played in nine game last season for the Cardinals. (USATSI)

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One of the stranger stories that went mostly unnoticed last season was the quite literal public disappearance of Kevin Ware.

As plenty of college hoops fans know, the Louisville reserve guard became a national story after his brutal injury in the 2013 Elite Eight against Duke. Ware broke his leg, had a public and positive rehab, and eventually got all the way back to playing condition in time for the start of last season. This amid Lousiville winning and soaking in a 2013 national title. Ware's story at a certain point became as big as the team winning it all.

Which is wild.

But Ware wasn't a component of the 2013-14 season, really. And that was a strange undercurrent to the season. Though he saw some playing time, he was never fully 100 percent, and an aggravation to the leg injury in mid-December put him on the shelf. In January Rick Pitino announced Ware would redshirt the remainder of the season. There were rumors of previous, undisclosed punishments. Was Ware suspended in the offseason? Was this related to it?

Regardless, he dropped entirely off the radar.

And on March 29, Louisville announced Ware transferred out of the school. He's since opted to head closer to home, opting to play at Georgia State. He awaits the NCAA's word on whether he'll have eligibility next season, or if he'll have to wait for the 2015-16 campaign.

How did all of this happen? Ware spoke with the Louisville Courier-Journal on the past six months and what he learned, what went wrong and why he had to sneak around his own campus. Ware said leaving Louisville is "one of the toughest things" he's ever had to do.

Initially it was flattering. But then it became suffocating. On campus, Ware sought out hidden routes to classes and the gym so he could avoid inevitable questions about the leg, and pictures with the leg, and everything about the leg.
"I stayed in my room as much as I could, honestly," he said. "If I didn't have to leave the house or be somewhere, I'd just stay in and watch Netflix. Everybody always asking, everybody wanting to have conversations about it. Like, why can't we just have a conversation about basketball?"
Ware received attention after missing a Nov. 18 court date for a reckless-driving charge. On Dec. 17 he was sidelined after being kicked in his repaired right leg during a game against Missouri State. After working diligently to return, he admits he was so frustrated by that setback that he handled it poorly.
"It was a bad year, honestly," Ware said. "I feel like I was mentally a lot stronger when I knew I could come back, and when I got hit again and (coaches and trainers) were saying I might want to sit out, it was just a lot of disappointment. Just sitting there not being able to help, not being able to do too much except be vocal. And that sucked. It really got to a point where I was just like, 'Man, this is crazy.' I was out of it mentally."
...
"I just feel like me leaving is a fresh start," Ware said. "I know a lot of people think of me and think of the leg. But, I mean, I play basketball. I don't want to be known as a guy who just played for Louisville and got hurt."

Unfortunately for Ware, his reputation at the college level will almost definitely be remembered for the injury. That incident will go down as a critical part of Louisville's title run. I was there, just outside Louisville's huddle in the bowels of the Georgia Dome, prior to the title game. Ware gave a speech to the team.

There's still so much to Ware's story, and I think it will require the passage of time, a little more growing up on Ware's part, and some separation from the situation in order to fully tell and reflect on all that went on in the past 12 months.

It's a fascinating story, and it's turning in a way I don't think anyone associated with Louisville wanted it to even as recently as four months ago.

 
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