Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said Tuesday that he’s encouraged by Ware’s rehabilitation, which recently has included riding a stationary bicycle. Ware broke his right leg in a gruesome incident during Louisville’s regional final victory over Duke and his injury became a rallying point in the Cardinals’ run to their third NCAA title.
“He’s just riding the bike and you can almost see from the X-rays the bone healing,” Pitino said. “I’d say, in another month he’ll be healed and then he’ll start working out a little bit.”
Pitino has had a good summer after winning the national championship. He’s seen sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell help the U.S. men’s Under-19 team win a gold medal and is watching forward Luke Hancock contribute to USA Basketball at the World University Games.
He’s also pleased with how Cardinals’ veterans are blending with newcomers during workouts.
While keeping an eye on his players, Pitino also is savoring the afterglow of the school’s third NCAA title. He has been signing some of 12,500 specially designed bourbon bottles bearing his face and achievements and is about to autograph 1,000 pieces of the Final Four court for charity.
Asked if he had a moment where everything has hit him, Pitino said during Tuesday’s news conference, “not one moment, no. But when you travel around and so many people speak about what a great game it was. ... That’s been a lot of fun.”
In the meantime, Pitino has admired the intensity and chemistry shown by his veterans and newcomers during summer workouts. Only point guard Peyton Siva and 6-foot-11 center Gorgui Dieng are gone from the title team, which returns regulars including leading scorer Russ Smith, forward Chane Behanan, Harrell and Hancock.
“Practice has been very competitive,” Pitino said. “Our backcourt is very strong.”
Smith is learning Siva’s guard responsibilities along with leadership qualities that Pitino believes is crucial to helping the Cardinals defend their championship. Harrell is coming off a performance in Prague, Czech Republic in which he averaged 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and hit nearly 58 percent of his field goals in nine tournament games.
Hancock, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, has been a key player for USA Basketball, which is 2-0 in preliminary round play after Monday’s 96-53 victory over the Czech Republic in Kazan, Russia. Hancock had 15 points in that game.
Before talking basketball, Pitino laid out plans for selling pieces of the Final Four court, where the Cardinals beat Michigan 82-76 in Atlanta just over three months ago.
The coach will sign 1,000 pieces of hardwood ranging in three sizes and to be sold at three price levels as part of a collaboration with Northwestern Mutual to help raise $250,000 for Louisville’s Kosair Children’s Hospital. A similar campaign last year with Kentucky raised more than $200,000 in the fight against pediatric cancer.
That could make for a tired hand, but Pitino said, “I’d sign 2,000, 3,000 if I had to.”
A larger, 24-by-28-foot section of the Final Four center court will be framed and hung in the lobby of the Cardinals’ KFC Yum! Center arena.