Rick Pitino roundly pronounces the era of the defending NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals now over. Kevin Ware is simply seeking humbled new beginnings. And somewhere, the Hoops Gods must be smiling by virtue of this somewhat equitable exchange.
Less than 24-hours after the Cardinals were dethroned as NCAA national champs — by cross-town rival Kentucky, no less –Ware announced on Saturday he is leaving the Louisville program for parts that sill remain somewhat unknown, yet still strike him as offering a greater glimmer of hope and opportunity.
To a man, virtually every member of the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA champion team will tell you Ware inspired them as few others ever have as they went about the biz of securing their much coveted brass ring. While no one is suggesting the Cardinals owed Ware anything he didn’t deserve, such as a starting job, added minutes or anything in between, can anyone really question whether Louisville would have been wiser served by assuring that the man who came to symbolize just what the NCAA Tournament portends to be and the collegiate athlete should truly represent would forever look better donning their red and white?
Ware wasn’t in uniform, on the bench or even in the arena during the Cardinals late game meltdown against the Wildcats on Friday and based on responses fielded on social media that poses a problem for more than just yours truly. Raises anew the refried issue of how students who also happen to be athletes are routinely discarded, disrespected and displaced once their deemed usefulness has surpassed its expiration date.
If Ware snapping his right leg in half in a mishap as grisly as any the sports world has ever seen doesn’t qualify for absolution just what might? Even as the nation continued to embrace the Georgia native as a hero of resolve and resourcefulness, the powers- that-be were already doing what they to often do to make for such far different narrative.
After suffering an injury to the same right leg in late December, Ware announced a few weeks later that he would be seeking a medical redshirt after appearing in nine games and averaging just 1.7 points. Soon thereafter, he stopped attending Cardinals’ game and practices. Still, Ware’s mother, Lisa Junior, held out hope that her son would again be given the chance to shine on the big stage.
“We’re just, moving forward now,” Junior earlier told reporters. “We’re trying to get him back on the court. He just wishes he could help. He wishes he could be out there with the guys, making a difference, making it easier. I think he’ll be back with Louisville next year. That’s where he is and that’s where he wants to be. I just think that once he gets healthy enough, he’ll be able to get back.”
But hope and reality can be as diverse and divided as the Kentucky fan bases that either bleed Cardinal red or Wildcat blue. Kevin Ware is finding that out the hard way.
“We wish Kevin Godspeed,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, all the while, at least publicly, never extending the olive branch that might keep him from slipping away.
Word is Ware is now hoping to transfer somewhere closer to his family in Georgia, with Auburn and Georgia State being prominently mentioned. Truth is, it seems Kevin Ware has now learned family ties extend far beyond just the colors you wear.