By Marquis Driver–
It’s been a rollercoaster for the senior forward from Chicago since arriving here on campus in 2011. Coming out of high school, Wayne Blackshear was the 26th ranked player in the nation by ESPN and named a McDonalds All-American. He averaged 32.6 points per game his senior season at Chicago basketball factory Morgan Park High School.
Blackshear is a 6-foot-5, athletic, forward with a shooting range well beyond the three-point line. He can defend and show a knack for getting to the bucket when he needs to.
Based on what he accomplished in high school, the feeling was that Blackshear would be able to come in and contribute right away from a scoring standpoint. But he was hampered by a shoulder injury that kept him out for the majority of his freshman year. Once he came back, there was a mixed bag of performances from the talented forward.
Blackshear could very well be the most polarizing player on the Cardinals’ basketball team. On one hand, fans have seen greatness and ability from him, like when he scored the first five points of the national championship game matching Michigan’s Trey Burke’s efforts, or how he poured in 20 on Cornell and 23 on Houston last season.
There just hasn’t been the consistency. On a number of occasions last year Blackshear was held scoreless and did not make up for it with effort in the rebounding battle.
As a junior, Blackshear averaged three rebounds and eight points a game. The McDonald’s All-American that many thought could be a one-and-done type of player was heading into his senior year and needed to salvage his college basketball career. Heading into this season it looks like Rick Pitino may finally get the Wayne Blackshear he recruited.
“He and I had a long talk. He was upset at me for telling him he had to work harder. I said, ‘Look son, I haven’t enjoyed coaching anybody much more, you and Peyton Siva are about as good as it gets when it comes to coaching a nice person. But right now that old adage of nice guys finishing last is going to happen to you. Your hourglass of sand is running out and you’ve just got to be aggressive. Be mean and tough, be Chicago tough. It’s your year, your senior year and all I want you to do is just be aggressive. However it takes,’” Pitino said.
“And he’s shown it, he stayed here the entire summer worked non-stop on his shot, worked on his ball handling and worked like he should have worked and he’s getting the fruits for his labor right now because he looks very, very good out there.”
Blackshear took the message to heart and looked inward. The senior didn’t waste the off-season and found the motivation to get to work.
“I found that in myself. I had to get back to how I used to be. I use to just stay in the gym everyday and that’s what I did this whole summer. I didn’t even leave the gym, I stayed in there every single day just to work on what I needed to get better.” Blackshear said. “I don’t want to leave here and have people wondering what I can do.”
Blackshear, who was named a team captain this year, will have to step up. Along with junior forward and fellow team captain Montrezl Harrell, they are the two remaining players from the 2013 National Championship run. He will be asked to be more aggressive with the ball and take a much bigger role from a leadership standpoint. His personality, however, will make him more of the lead by example type.
If scrimmages and preseason games are any indication of what’s to come this year, Louisville should be excited to see the new, or better said, old, Blackshear. He has scored over 20 points in each of his showings this preseason, holding true to the promise that there will be a more aggressive Blackshear, much to the delight of Cardinal fans.
The legacy of Wayne Blackshear at Louisville is one that has had its ups and downs, but it just feels like there is something more to be seen from the young man. His senior season will be the final chapter in what has up to this point been an under performing career for himself and the Louisville fan base.
“I’m taking it upon myself to be aggressive in practice every day, getting better and better.”
Fans will be looking for the more aggressive Wayne this season, he has something to prove and the feeling is that he will put the critics to rest.
“I’m taking it upon myself to be aggressive in practice every day, getting better and better,” Blackshear said.
“I feel like I have improved, but I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go out there and show it.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal