Louisville’s Ware Set to Join Teammates on Bench at Final Four

University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who broke two bones in his lower right leg during a game in college basketball’s national men’s tournament two days ago, will accompany his teammates to the Final Four in Atlanta and join them on the bench at the Georgia Dome.

Ware was using crutches to get around yesterday, less than 24 hours after undergoing two hours of surgery to have the broken bones re-set, the wound closed and a metal rod inserted in his right tibia. His teammates said the injury inspired them to an 85-63 win against Duke University in the Midwest regional final that sent them to the Final Four.

“He’s in very good spirits and anxious to get out of the hospital and get back with the guys,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said yesterday on a conference call after spending time with Ware at an Indianapolis hospital. “We’re going to leave Wednesday night. Kevin will be with us.”

Pitino said Ware, a sophomore guard, probably will leave the hospital today and return to Louisville, Kentucky. The Cardinals play Wichita State in a semifinal at the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament on April 6, with the winner advancing to the championship game two days later.

“He’s up and about,” Pitino said. “He’s on crutches walking. They want his blood flowing. The only thing they’re concerned about at this point -- because the bone comes out of the skin -- they’re concerned of a chance of infection.”

Players Crying

Ware was injured when he landed after jumping while attempting to block a shot during the first half of the Midwest regional final. His right leg buckled and he immediately collapsed to the floor near the Louisville bench as the broken bone protruded from his leg. Pitino and several Cardinals players wiped away tears as medical personnel attended to Ware, who was taken off the court on a stretcher after his leg was immobilized and then to an area hospital for surgery.

Ware, who played high school basketball in Rockdale County, Georgia, 24 miles (39 kilometers) east of Atlanta after growing up in the Bronx, New York, repeatedly implored his teammates to win the game against Duke as he lay on the court, Pitino said. The Cardinals outscored the Blue Devils 50-31 after halftime to pull away for the win and reach the Final Four for the second straight year.

“He gets to go home and be with his family and be with us on the bench,” Pitino said.

Ware, who averaged 4.6 points and 1.8 rebounds as a reserve this season for Louisville, received the team’s trophy from the Midwest regional yesterday following his surgery.

“He was real excited about it,” Pitino said on a conference call. “I said to him, ‘You want me to bring it back or stay with you?’ He said, ‘It’s staying with me.’ I said, ‘All right, just make sure you don’t lose it.”’

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