Ware on defense after draining a "3" in his first game back.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The shock remains fresh, even after seven-and-a-half months, and endless replays on YouTube; seeing bare bone, when Louisville guard Kevin Ware hit the floor during the Cards' Elite Eight duel with Duke in March Madness.
"It was hard for me to watch, I had to turn the TV off," friend and teammate Chris Jones recalled. "Everybody was like, is he gonna play again."
Ware answered that with about 8:30 left in the Cards' exhibition game with Pikeville Wednesday night.
"I honestly thought I'd air-ball my first shot," he said. "But when it went in, everything went back to normal."
The total time from breaking the tibia in his right leg to making it back onto the court - 220 days.
"I thought it would be sometime in mid-season," said Dr. Craig Roberts, Chairman of Orthopedics for University of
Louisville Physicians. "I too, am in some ways, very 'Wow'ed.'
But in other ways, not.
"You could see a combination of factors weighing in his (Ware's) recovery," said Dr. Roberts. "This university, this community, has the right combination of specialists to draw upon. The rehabilitation facilities are here. The athletic trainers have the experience."
Just as importantly, Ware came into the break in prime shape, both in sport and in spirit.
"I feel like a motivational or business coach when I say attitude is everything," Dr. Roberts said. "But we can almost predict from a recovery standpoint who will do well and who won't."
Injuries such as Ware's present special challenges to those taxed with getting patients back on their feet, field or court, according to Jon Holland, physical therapist for Frazier Rehab.
"You're talking about running and jumping, and putting three to four times the force of your body through a joint or a limb," said Holland. "A lot of activities involve three-dimensional movement; rotating, twisting, jumping, so we have to train the body to handle that without injury."
Individual sessions will last 45 minutes to an hour, repeated several times per day. Keeping the patient patient can be difficult too.
"Often, they will feel better than what their body will let them do," Holland said. "So we have to hold them back somewhat."
Coach Rick Pitino said the decision to play Ware came before the game and was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
"I wanted to give him some minutes to get rid of the jitters," said Pitino.
"The jitters are gone," Ware said. "I feel like the practicing will get me back to shape with the conditioning, but basketball-wise I feel like myself."
The stats will show six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes of playing time. There was also one fall, something which brought gasps from the crowd.
"I don't think they ever will get over (the fall)," Ware said, "but I haven't seen it, so I guess that why I don't react and I don't get the mental state and everything with it."
Pitino admonished those looking for answers as to when Ware might be whole again.
"Give the kid a break," he said.
Ware himself has defined what being back means.
"Just being able to play with my brothers again is probably the biggest thing and most happiest thing right now," said Ware.
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