By Noah Allison–
Louisville’s starting back court consisting of senior point guard Peyton Siva and junior shooting guard Russ Smith is arguably one of the top back courts in the nation. Their aggressive, fast-paced style of play wears down opponents and leads the Cardinals to victory. Then, in comes number five, Kevin Ware.
Ware, the six-foot-two sophomore guard, utilizes his long athletic body to play blanket defense on whomever he needs to. Under the guidance of Pitino and tutelage of Siva and Smith, Ware is developing into a dependable sixth man who can come in at crucial times throughout the game.
Ware is originally from the Bronx in New York City, and like upperclassmen Russ Smith, he’s a product of the historic and cultural basketball upbringing that is associated with every day life growing up in New York City.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I can remember being able to walk,” Ware said. “I was in New York until I was about 14. Then I moved, and from eighth grade until my senior year I lived in Georgia.”
Ware first moved to Atlanta before settling in Rockdale County, Georgia, a smaller more quiet area on the outskirts of Atlanta.
“It was more of a quiet area; my mom is one of those people that likes to just be by herself so it was a bit quiet there,” Ware said. “It was difficult because a lot of my family was in New York originally. I had family in Georgia but I was a lot closer to my family in New York, and just moving away from certain people in my family was kind of hard at first. Moving down there and jumping to a whole new kind of city was kind of difficult, but I got used to it.”
Ware’s early days of growing up playing basketball in New York City can partly correlate to his current position in the game he loves.
“I can say New York City has some of the best guards in the world. You can just go down the list of a million people,” Ware said. “I think we are guard-heavy out of New York, where like Indiana you have a variety of big men and shooters and in Atlanta you have shooting guards and small forwards. But New York is definitely heavy in guards, even the big men can handle the ball like guards and it’s always been like that.”
As Ware continues to develop, he proves to be yet another example of talent that is being polished and harnessed by Coach Pitino and his staff.
“Getting here last year was a great experience. I learned a lot from the second semester of my freshman year and continuing into this season. I didn’t really see the difference on the pick and roll until I watched myself last year compared to how I use it this year. Coming off screens, playing defense, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know that I know now. I can really say that my game has improved a lot, and as long as I’m here it will keep improving,” Ware said.
Ware’s role on the team is more crucial than the average fan thinks. His 16 minutes in game are what make the Cardinals a top team in the nation. The depth at every position is exemplified by the play of Kevin Ware, coming in and being reliable when the team needs him.
“I’m comfortable with my role this year. I feel like as time goes on I’ll get more involved at different things but it’s not like Coach P. is just all out everything you do is defense; when I get my opportunity, I take it. But we get a lot of scoring from Russ and Peyton already so I just come in and be an energy guy this year,” Ware said.
“I love the fast break, when it’s me and somebody else one-on-one; I feel like I’m unstoppable, and chasing down blocks I feel like I’m really good at.” Ware continued. “And I can go up and get alley-oops. I always tell Peyton just throw it up and I’ll go get it. I tell everybody that, but they feel like if I don’t get it then it’s a turnover on their part, so they are kind of hesitant a little bit.”
For all he can do athletically, Ware is most valuable for his defending. In 24 games he has 21 steals, and what doesn’t get recorded is the deflections and forced turnovers he also helps create in the havoc loving U of L defense.
“I’ve just always been one of those kind of guys that is not going to let somebody be able to say they were able to kill me in any aspect on the court. As long as I can remember, I could successfully guard the best player on the team,” Ware said. “When I’m on my guy, I feel like I just have to stop him any way possible. I don’t care how I have to do it. I don’t want him to have 25 or 30 points on me because that looks bad on me, and I’ve always been that type of person. But I need to attack more. I feel like offensively I’m a good player, so when I’m on the court I can’t just be another guy. I have to make the defense play me,” Ware said.
Ware and the Cardinals only have five regular season games left. Each one will determine the eventual Big East Regular Season Champions. After those five, the real season starts, first with the last true Big East Tournament and then on to the NCAA Tournament.
“We need to get back to turning people over. I feel like when we are playing defense and getting after it and getting on the break then that is where we really excel,” Ware said. “We struggle sometimes in the half-court setting because sometimes we’re on and sometimes we’re off. But when we’re on a fast break we are set because we have a lot of talented athletes and that’s our style of play; when we get after people and turn defense into offense on the break, then we are unstoppable.”
Ware’s quiet demeanor and unnoticeably sound style of play makes him one of the more mysterious players on the team. While many U of L fans may not know about him, they should all know of him by now. Without the stability that Kevin Ware brings to the guard position, Siva and Smith wouldn’t be able to play their style of game. If there is any one thing that matters about Kevin Ware that the Card Nation should know about him though, it’s simply this:
“I’m a good guy, really down to earth,” Ware said. “I don’t want to come off like a mean person. I know a lot of people think I’m a mean guy, but it’s just because I’m so quiet. I really am a nice guy when you talk to me.”
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal