Two hundred and twenty-two days later, Kevin Ware was dressed and on the Louisville bench, a week after being allowed to practice again.
Bringing back memories of his crumbling to the court in the NCAA Regional against Duke, the awful image of the bone protruding from his leg, his teammates and coach in tears, people across America wondering if he would ever play basketball again.
Rick Pitino, his coach, predicting early on that Ware might be available later in the semester, bringing him along slowly, allowing him to make the emotional adjustment, no one knowing what to expect as the season progresses without him.
Whoa. Look who’s at the scorer’s table at the 13:49 mark of the second half, getting ready to check in for the Cardinals in an exhibition game against Pikevile, a soft murmur rising to a rumbling roar, the crowd rising for a standing ovation.
Kevin Ware ready for the basketball wars, his fans not quite prepared, wanting opposing players to avoid him, hold their collective breath every time he gets in a crowd or attempts a rebound. He goes down, he gets right back up. Has to be a miracle. That’s Kevin Ware out there.
Only appropriate that his first shot would be a three-point attempt, a perfect arch that would ripple the nets at the 8:30 mark.
Ware would miss his next two shots from the field, but hit three of four from the foul line for six points and collect four rebounds before being departing the floor to another standing ovation for his contributions in Louisville’s 90-61 win.
Kevin Ware was back, indeed.
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Before Ware returned, a newcomer named Chris Jones was turning the heads at the KFC Yum! Center, introducing a new style of point guard play for Louisville, a fast-paced, quick-decisioned, action-oriented phenomenon. The plodding, the weaving in and out style of his predecessor a distant memory.
Displaying an extraordinary level of confidence, the junior-guard transfer would collect 19 points, grab six rebounds and make three assists and zero turnovers, continuing to build on his first impression for Louisville fans.
* * *
Russ Smith settling for 12 points, content with seven assists and three rebounds, working on other parts of his game for the pro scouts, rounding out his game, being a leader, the captain that he is this season. He will still be around if points are needed. Count on it.
* * *
Stephan Van Treese still waiting for the switch to turn on. It will. He’s a Hoosier, loves the game too much. Everyone will know when it does.