Wayne Blackshear passed on opportunities

Whatever, Wayne.

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.

Wayne Blackshear
Wayne Blackshear

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.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

6 thoughts on “Wayne Blackshear passed on opportunities”

  1. I’ve wanted to attribute these comments from Wayne as his way of talking NBA teams into giving him a new look. If so, now he has to show, and nothing that happened while he was here can be an excuse if he fails to impress; we are not holding him back now.
    I also remember the injuries he had early in his college career, and the number of times the referees took him out of his rhythm because he fouled instead of guarding, and I remember the flash of brilliance he showed in the Final Four v that school down the road, (what is their name, slips my mind). The promise showed when he double-pump-dunked on Anthony Davis seldom came out later, and when he struggled from outside he was passed in the rotation by Luke, who could shoot.
    Speaking of shooting, he would do himself a favor to talk up his shooting, (and then deliver), instead of making it sound like he had to sacrifice his game while he learned to shoot. Today’s NBA is all about the three point shot.
    Refine your story Wayne, there is a different version that will serve you and history better than this one does.

    1. Rick J. you should be able to remember that team down the road…..the team that has beat your team so many times it is almost like your team alludes to when playing our team in football!! maybe we should schedule someone that will give us some competition!! Now to give your coach with your team that used to be with our team…..you remember back when your team fans use to call him $100 dollar hand shake…..his due. He has put together a good group for the upcoming year!! Looks like you guys will have an excellent team!!

      1. Squire Rick, I think you may have inadvertently hit on the source of my amnesia regarding that team’s/school’s name, even when our Coach was their coach the team’s identity is always about the coach. With the Cardinals it is Louisville First.

        Sorry, couldn’t resist the play on words. And, yes, that team, (its on the tip of my…) has been dominating lately. And, yes, as Charlie says, the rivalry is at an awful place. Maybe, from your testimony, it has been that way for a long time. At any rate, the current state of the interaction is a real shame. I was happy when playing regularly finally happened, I would not miss it if they went their separate ways now.

  2. Wayne did well in the classroom but he seemed to be in a fog much of the time on the basketball court. Although he played well at times, Blackshear seemed to lack an enduring passion for the game. He was good, blessed with some skills, but he didn’t work to fine tune himself, be the best he could be.

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