How different is Louisville after Ware’s Injury? The Cardinals for better or for worse
Everyone knows, by now, what happened to the poor Kevin Ware, sophomore playing at Louisville, in the first half of the Elite Eight game in the NCAA Tournament against the Duke Blue Devils. The player with the jersey #5 broke his tibia bone simply jumping, trying to contest a shot. The fracture caused a tremendous wound for him and for all the people who saw that.
But we do not want to talk about this. Let’s try to understand how this injury can affect Louisville’s run and the Cardinals’ morale. When Ware’s injury occurred, Louisville had to face the worst moment of its season. The Cardinals were indeed fighting in a close game against a tough team like Duke in order to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Pitino’s team was left without a key player in the rotation, especially on the defensive end. Ware is Siva’s backup and he is the only player of Louisville’s bench who can bring the ball up the floor for a consistent period of time. Nevertheless, he is usually more effective because of his great defense and energy. The 20-years old guard is taller than Siva and Smith and he has long arms. Because of that, he can play defense even against taller opponents.
Obviously all this is nothing when confronted to the psychological effects. We must not forget that we are talking about guys who are aged between 18 and 23, who are not only impressed when seeing a thing like that, but who could think “what if that thing would happen to me? If it happened to my teammate with a normal jump, it could also happen to me”. The human effects are still worse. These guys not only play together, but they live together. They study together, they practice together, they are roommates at the university, they travel long distances together, and so on. For these reasons, the term “teammate” is reducing. It would be more correct to say brotherhood, when talking about these guys.
At this point, we have to ask us a question. How do you react when a thing like that happens to a brother? Are you sad and demoralized because of his injury or you play with more intensity in order to win the game for the injured brother? Every coin has two sides. You have fear, and we have already talked about it, and you have excitement. Ware’s teammates are obviously overwhelmed by a wave of energy and emotions more intense than usual and that is not easy to cope with. Russ Smith & Co. could have played with too much heat, taking quick and bad shots or turning the ball over and fouling the opponents more than needed.
In my opinion, this was the true Louisville’s feat. They managed to cope with the emotions, to handle fear, to stay focused and to convey the heat in the right way. They managed to improve their level notwithstanding the loss of a player. At this point, Pitino’s team becomes the favourite team of these Final Four. They proved they can win (against Duke!) even without Kevin and they will face Wichita State in the next round. Wichita State is arguably the least talented team of the four which will play in Atlanta, even if they proved they can win against all NCAA teams. The Cardinals have passed their worst moment, the one in which they did not know what were the conditions of the injured teammate and the one in which they had in their eyes only pain and sorrow.
Now, Louisville has time to prepare a game without Ware. The players have already met their teammate and he already underwent surgery to repair his tibia bone. The surgery was successful and a picture of him standing with crutches is already on the Internet. Motivation? They have it. Quality? They have it. Awareness that the time to win is now? They have it. They have all they need. Now is your turn to try to stop these Cardinals.