Continued from page 1

“I think we’re all fine now,” Pitino said. “Just having Kevin around, we can exhale.”

The coach said having Ware in Atlanta might provide the Cardinals with a little “extra emotion,” but in his experience “the team that executes the best will win.”

Pitino and his son, Richard, spent Monday at the hospital with Ware, who was pictured holding the championship trophy in his bed. Though Ware had maintained his composure talking with AP, he became very emotional during an earlier interview with ESPN when talking about waking up and seeing the trophy.

The coach downplayed staying with him at the hospital after his injury.

“There’s not a coach in America that wouldn’t be there,” he said.

And while Pitino said everyone can exhale now, the Cardinals had to take a deep breath when Ware went down on Sunday. They eventually regrouped and took the lead at halftime against Duke en route to an 85-63 victory over the Blue Devils in Indianapolis.

Through it all, Ware said he had to remain strong. He was placed on a stretcher and wheeled out of Lucas Oil Stadium to cheers of `Kevin Ware, Kevin Ware,’ before heading to Methodist Hospital.

Ware underwent a two-hour operation to repair compound fractures of the tibia that left the leg at an odd angle. He awoke the next morning to discover he had become an overnight sensation, and the afterglow hasn’t waned.

His condition and progress have been featured every day on the major networks, the Internet and especially social media. The Cardinals’ practice facility was surrounded by a phalanx of satellite trucks, and the interview requests helped Ware get an early jump on his rehab as he shuttled back and forth between makeshift sets.

“It’s going to take a long time to get where I want to be,” Ware said.

Not that he’s dreading the hard work ahead.

“I think God puts things in your life and you have to go through certain obstacles,” he said. “I just feel like these are obstacles that are going to make me grow up for the better. It’s going to open my eyes to a lot of things I probably haven’t seen before.”

Ware said he has heard from several of his NBA idols, including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Charles Barkley. The Louisville guard said he has even heard from first lady Michelle Obama and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

For the soft-spoken Ware, the support and media attention has meant more interviews than he ever imagined.

“I had no idea I would get this kind of attention,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who just likes to play basketball. But the injury opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes and I really appreciate all the support. It really means a lot.”

Story Continues →