NCAA BK

Ware returns, inspires — and scores

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220 days ago, Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury against Duke in the Elite 8 matchup, leaving many to wonder if he would ever play again.

The stomach-churning incident resulted in a broken leg for the Louisville guard, forcing him to watch his team win the national championship from the sidelines. Now, the man everyone was rooting for is back on the hardwood, healthy and helping his Cardinals defend their title.

Kevin Ware inspired with his return —
then dazzled with his play.
Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

And on Wednesday night, the junior made his first appearance in a game since the horrific injury, playing in an exhibition game against Pikeville in front a home crowd of 19,227 in Louisville, Ky. Ware received a standing ovation when he subbed in with 13:49 to play in the second half, and he gave the KFC Yum! Center a reason to stay on their feet just moments later.

In his first shot of the night, Ware cashed in on a 3-pointer and sent the Louisville crowd into a frenzy. Louisville would go on to win 90-61.

"I honestly thought I would air-ball my first shot," Ware told the media after hitting 1 of 3 field goals but converted 3 of 4 free throws. "When it went in, everything went back to normal."

Coach Rick Pitino, who stood by Ware's side in the initial moments of the injury and shed tears with his players, had said Ware would be back for Saturday's regular-season opener against College of Charleston. But then plans changed.

"I wanted to get him some minutes just to get over the jitters of being back just in case we used him against Charleston," said the coach, who decided before the game to play Ware.

Ware injury

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"I was a little nervous, actually," Ware said. "I didn't expect to get in so late in the game and me and coach really didn't talk about anything. But when he called my number, I was just ready to get in. I've been waiting for this moment for like 200 and 20 days now."

Ware suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg March 31 when he landed after trying to block a shot against Duke in a regional final in Indianapolis. Pitino's story about what Ware repeatedly said to his team while lying on the ground as medical staff tended to him — "I'll be fine, just win the game." — became almost instant legend as the Cardinals beat the Blue Devils 85-63 en route to a national championship.

Ware finished the night with six points, four rebounds — and unquestionably the best play of the game.

Tagged: Louisville, Duke

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