Replacing Kevin Ware's contributions will be a group activity for the Louisville basketball team at the Final Four.
ATLANTA (WDRB) – Today the Kevin Ware Story changes. Today the Kevin Ware Story becomes a basketball story.
Today we discover if the University of Louisville basketball team can press and harass and pressure and score and dictate without Kevin Ware as well as the Cardinals have done all those things with Ware delivering as the team's best backcourt substitute during their current 14-game winning streak.
Today Louisville plays Wichita State at 6:09 p.m. in the first national semifinal at the Georgia Dome.
Who takes Kevin Ware's spot?
Ware will certainly remain a focus of the pre-game coverage but he can only help the Cardinals by cheering and making suggestions from the bench today. The compound fracture that Ware suffered to his right leg last Sunday in Indianapolis makes Ware a spectator this weekend.
Louisville survived nicely without Ware over the final 26-plus minutes of its Midwest Regional final victory against Duke. Now Rick Pitino has had six days to determine who will fill the nearly 17 productive minutes per game that Ware has been averaging during the Cardinals' winning streak.
Pitino said that junior Tim Henderson will get his opportunity. Many expect Pitino to sub Henderson for Russ Smith or Peyton Siva about a minute before the extended breaks for TV timeouts. Pitino will try to arrange more rest for his starting guards. Smith (31.3 per game) has logged major minutes in the tournament, more than any Cardinal player. Siva has played less – 27.5 – because of foul trouble.
Does Ware's absence increase the pressure on Siva, Smith and the Cards' other ball-handlers?
"I don't feel so," Siva said. "I think Tim Henderson, I think Luke playing more, too, they're more than capable guys of, you know, playing the role.
"Tim Henderson, a lot of people talk about he's a walk‑on, everything, but he's been guarding Russ Smith the whole year. I feel like he can come in and spell anybody. If you guard Russ Smith the whole year, you can pretty much guard anybody, especially in practice."
Nobody should expect Henderson to do what Ware has done. That's unfair and unrealistic. They're not the same player.
Check the numbers.
During the Cards' 14-game winning streak, Ware has averaged 16.9 minutes, making 25 of 56 shots, 8 of 19 three-pointers and 18 of 25 free throws. Ware has 29 rebounds, 19 steals and 76 points. If Ware played full-time, he'd average double figures.
During the same period, Henderson has played 29 total minutes. He's made one of five shots, a three-pointer against Duke. Henderson has three points, no steals and three rebounds. His strengths are defending and protecting the basketball.
So look for Pitino to split Ware's minutes between Henderson, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan. The coach will have to mix and match his lineups, creating ways to keep Smith and Siva fresh.