College basketball fans from Louisville and beyond got to see a familiar face in the round of 64 this past weekend. Former Cardinal Kevin Ware made his first NCAA Tournament appearance since Louisville’s Elite Eight victory over Duke in the 2013 tourney.
(Do I really need to remind y’all of what happened?)
Since that fateful day, it has been a long journey back to being just another Division I basketball player for the redshirt junior from Rockdale County, Georgia.
This past season, the 6-foot-2 guard has been contributing his national champion experience to head coach Ron Hunter and the Georgia State Panthers.
The Panthers went 25-10 on the regular season with a 15-5 record in the Sun Belt Conference.
Ware helped lead the Panthers to a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Title and into the NCAA Tournament. In the Panther’s 38-36 victory over Georgia Southern, Ware led all scorers with a season high and collegiate career high 18 points in 39 minutes played.
Ware’s transfer to be close to home proved valuable to the Panthers this past season.
He started 16 of 35 games this season and averaged 28.6 minutes a game. He shot 44 percent from the field, 70 percent from the free throw line and was the fourth leading scorer averaging 7.6 points per game, scoring 265 total points on the season.
Ware was fourth on the team in assists with 85 and fifth on the team in rebounds with 108.
But more than anything, Ware brought to Georgia State everything he brought to Louisville on the court: Cardinal defense.
In his first year in the system, Ware was second on the team in steals with 58.
The country doesn’t simply remember Kevin Ware because of the injury he sustained in the national tournament; he is remembered because of the magic of the team he was on. And in the first weekend of this year’s tournament the country was reminded of Ware because of the magic of his new team.
Although the 14 seed Georgia State panthers couldn’t sustain the momentum of their second round upset over three seed Baylor, the country was reminded of how great the NCAA Tournament is, and always has been.
Photo by Tricia Stern / The Louisville Cardinal