Cardinals coach Rick Pitino brought the Midwest Regional championship trophy when he visited Ware, who remains hospitalized after surgery to repair a gruesome fracture in his right leg.
“He was real excited about (the trophy),” Pitino said after visiting Ware again Monday morning. “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.’”
During a two-hour surgery Sunday night, doctors reset Ware’s broken tibia and inserted a rod into the bone. Because the bone broke through the skin, Pitino said doctors are monitoring Ware to make sure no infection develops. If there are no complications, he should be released today.
The Cardinals plan to leave for the Final Four in Atlanta on Wednesday night, and Pitino said they expect to have Ware with them. Ware is originally from New York City, but he moved to the Atlanta
area before high school.
“He gets to go home, be with his family and be with us on the bench,” Pitino said. “He’s in very good spirits and anxious to get out of the hospital and get back with the guys.”
Ware’s right leg snapped Sunday when he landed awkwardly after trying to contest a 3-point shot. The injury devastated his teammates, and several fell to the court crying. Chane Behanan, Ware’s best friend on the team, had to be helped to his feet.
Before Ware was wheeled off on a stretcher, he repeatedly urged the Cardinals to “just go win the game.” The Cardinals did, beating Duke 85-63 to reach their second consecutive Final Four.
“Right before the surgery, when he was able to watch the players at the press conference, the nurses and doctors told me that was the first time he broke down and cried, when the players were talking about him,” Pitino said.
Pitino said the sophomore guard has been moved by all the messages of support. Joe Theismann, whose NFL career was ended by a horrific broken leg in a game, has called Ware, Pitino said.
Pitino said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called to see how Ware was doing.
“It will be a long recovery,” Pitino said. “But we expect him to make a full recovery.”
Pitino and his son, Richard, who recruited Ware while he was on his father’s staff, were at the hospital when the sophomore guard got out of surgery and went back Monday morning. Ware’s girlfriend stayed with him overnight, and his mother and her husband arrived Monday.
“She just needed to see him this morning,” Pitino said. “She was crying all night. Once she gave him a hug this morning, she was fine. Everything is good right now.”
Kenny Klein, Louisville’s sports information director, tweeted a picture of Ware on crutches Monday. Richard Pitino, now the coach at Florida International, posted photos of Ware with his family and with the championship trophy.
While some have speculated that Ware could have had a previous stress fracture that left him predisposed to such an injury, Pitino discounted that, saying there was “nothing prior.”
“Basically his leg went one way and his shoe went another and the bone split,” Pitino said. “There’s no preexisting thing that makes it do that.”
Ware’s injury is similar to the one suffered by running back Michael Bush, who also played at Louisville. Bush recovered from the injury and has had a productive NFL career with Oakland and Chicago.