This past week on the ‘Early Birds’ radio program on WKRD 790, Rick Pitino sat down with host Drew Deener to address hot topics like the recent transfers, the incoming freshmen (including the eligibility concerns of point guard Terry Rozier), and of course gave a summer update on how the team is doing and who is standing out. Our own Brent Lepping provided an excellent recap of the interview which you can still read below. When discussing which players were sticking out in summer workouts, the two players who Pitino spoke highly of were guards Russ Smith and Kevin Ware. When Pitino spoke specifically about Ware, he discussed his excellent work ethic, his superior athleticism, his much improved mid-range jump shot, and told Deener he does not think “the fans understand how good he’s going to be.”
Ware committed to the Cards late last spring after a drawn out, melodramatic recruitment that saw him released from his letter of intent to play at Tennessee after Bruce Pearl was fired. He then became close to committing to the Cards only to change his mind and shockingly commit to Central Florida after allegedly being involved with the likes of Brandon Bender and Kenneth Caldwell. He then decided to decommit from UCF after the NCAA found out about some shady recruiting and officially committed to the Cards, only to later find out he would not be eligible to play until January. Moral of the story? Do not listen to people like Brandon Bender and Ken Caldwell, kids. They are not your friends and do not have your best interests in mind.
Once Ware finally got the okay from the NCAA to suit up for the Cards, fans understandably became excited. We desperately needed a backup for Peyton Siva at the point, and Ware possessed Rajon Rondo-like length with freakish Terrence Williams-like athleticism. Yet, in 20 games played, Ware only averaged 5.3 minutes per game, 1.0 points per game, 0.7 assists per game, 0.7 rebounds per game, and 1.1 turnovers per game (all stats courtesy of ESPN.com). He never scored more than 6 points in a game during the season and only recorded assists in four of them (recording a season high 4 assists in a season high 16 minutes in a January game at St. John’s).
What the stats do not show, however, is what we as fans saw in person. We witnessed an incredible athlete, who was also incredibly raw, playing out of position at the point guard spot. It is not that Ware is incapable of playing the point, but he never seemed completely comfortable, and his waist high dribbling did not look like that of a point guard. Yet, he was lightning quick through the lane, and had a handful of nice baskets driving to the hoop. With his length and athletic ability, he has the potential to be a defensive monster on the perimeter and have a competitive advantage over other perimeter players for long rebounds. He is much more suited to play the two-guard and has the potential to thrive in that position. The one big knock on him is his sub-par shooting game, and as Pitino addressed, it is already drastically improved.
It may be unfair to expect the same out of Ware that we can expect out of young guys like Blackshear, Behanan, and Hancock, but it appears we are going to get a glimpse of the Kevin Ware we hoped for when he committed last spring. He is in prime position to be this year’s breakout player, just as Russ Smith was last year, and should get more minutes at the two-guard position, where he should be more comfortable. Remember also that while Russ was an unheralded sleeper recruit, Ware was always considered a high major player and his potential is through the roof.
I am already excited at what the young man can bring to a championship-contending team, and from the sound of it, so does Pitino. It will be a fun year, and Kevin Ware is set to be a major contributor in bringing another championship home to Louisville.