Wayne Blackshear telling the Chicago Tribune, “I sacrificed my game a lot at Louisville for team success. I tried to fit in too much. I really couldn’t show what I could do.”
Blackshear averaged 31.4 minutes per game for the University of Louisville, plenty of time to show what he could do.
Coach Rick Pitino made him a captain before the season began, indicating that Blackshear had finally put in the work over the summer to move to the next level, become a team leader, more assertive on the court. Pitino taking issue with fans at times when Blackshear failed to live up to their expectations.
But Pitino also was among Blackshear’s most severe critics, saying after 2013-14 season: “The only player I’ve had in the past four years that hasn’t had substantial improvement is Wayne Blackshear. We’ve got to turn over a whole new leaf. For his own sake, he’s got to wake up and understand that the world will pass him by if he doesn’t live in that gym.”
Blackshear finally got the message, showing up at the gym during the summer months, Pitino proclaiming, “He’s been working twice a day, every single day, since school ended. He’s the biggest surprise and the biggest change.” Before the 2014-15 season began, Pitino named the soft-spoken Blackshear one of the team’s co-captains, hoping that would further motivate him.
But halfway through the season, Blackshear was as inconsistent as ever, hit and miss, a player with an NBA body and NBA skills playing with a passion that seemed to come and go. He would seem to make a breakthrough, only to regress the next game, disappearing for long periods at a time.
The low point came during a 69-59 loss to Syracuse in February when Blackshear fouled out in 19 minutes, with zero points, zero assists, one rebound, zero steals and two turnovers. The high point may have been his final game, a 76-70 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Regional final. He scored 28 points, playing through sickness at half time and a bloody nose during much of the second half.
Probably the best game of his career, saving his best for the end. Had Blackshear played with the same passion throughout his career, he may have played himself into a high draft pick. Pitino gave him every opportunity to do that, encouraging him to be more aggressive, wanting him to take advantage of his abilities.
When push came to shove, however, the burden was usually on Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier or Chris Jones (before he left the team). Wayne, maybe. Some of the time.
As Eric Crawford observed about Blackshear’s comments, “They don’t jibe at all with the way things here, and they don’t serve any useful purpose for Blackshear.”
Sadly, Wayne, for whatever reason, was slow to take advantage of his opportunities at Louisville. If he didn’t show what he could do, that’s on him.