Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino calls to the referees to stop the game as Cardinals guard Kevin Ware, a Rockdale grad, lays on the court with a broken leg in the first half against the Duke Blue Devils during their Midwest Regional NCAA men’s basketball game in Indianapolis on Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Rockdale star Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury during Louisville’s regional final Sunday against Duke. Ware was contesting a 3-point attempt by Duke’s Tyler Thornton with 6:33 to play in the first half and Louisville leading 21-17, then landed and suffered a lower right leg injury.
The game was stopped for nearly 10 minutes as medical personnel immediately came out to assist Ware. The 2011 Rockdale graduate was later taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
After the top-seeded Cardinals won the game 85-63 to advance to the Final Four this weekend at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Louisville coach Rick Pitino told CBS Sports the bone popped out of Ware’s skin and broke in two spots.
Though the site of Saturday’s national semifinal game against Wichita State is 25 miles from where the former Bulldog standout played his high school ball, Ware can only be a spectator.
”We wanted to get back to Atlanta. We talked about every time out, ‘Bring Kevin home,’” Pitino said. “All he kept saying, and remember, the bone’s six inches out of his leg, and all he’s yelling ‘Win the game, win the game.’ I’ve not seen that in my life. Pretty special young man.”
Ware, a sophomore guard who was coming off a career-high 11 points in Louisville’s win over Oregon in the regional semifinals Friday, had three points on 1 of 3 shooting with a steal and a rebound at the time of the injury.
Late Sunday night, the University of Louisville said in a statement that Ware underwent successful surgery. His right tibia was reset, and a rod was inserted during the two-hour operation. Louisville sports medicine director Fred Hina said the injury might not be career-ending, though Ware likely faces a long rehab.
“When he landed (on the court), I heard it,” Louisville guard Russ Smith said. “I’d heard it, and then I seen what happened come out (the bone) and I immediately just, just like, fell.
“And I almost didn’t feel nothing, and it was — it was really hard to pull myself together because I didn’t ever think in a million years I would see something like that.”
One person who helped them pull themselves together was Ware.
“Well, we won this for him, we’re all choked up with emotion for him,” Pitino said. “We’ll get him back to normal. We got great doctors, great trainers. It’ll take him a year to come back. He’ll come back better than ever.”
Those words couldn’t have resonated more.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Louisville’s Peyton Siva said. “I don’t know how he got the strength to do it, but he told us to go out there and win. These guys really came to play.”
Louisville’s star guards came up big after the injury to their teammate. Smith scored 23 points and Siva had 16 points and four assists for the Cardinals (33-5). Smith was named the most outstanding player of the regional.
The Cardinals have a little extra incentive against Wichita State after Ware’s injury.
“We want to do this for him,” Siva said. “We know how much it means for him to be out there, and how much he wants to be out there.”
Reuters contributed to this report.