Waking up to a trophy in the hospital was "basketball Christmas," Ware says
"This is all God's plan," he says about the setback
"I just lost it," his mother adds about son's grotesque injury
Kevin Ware’s leg may be broken but not his spirit.
Not in the least bit.
Millions of television viewers cringed, when a bone punched through Ware’s skin, protruding out of his leg after the University of Louisville guard landed hard from a jump to block a shot Sunday night.
It brought the Elite Eight game against the Duke Blue Devils to a screeching halt in the first half.
“I kind of joke a little bit,” Ware said. “Like I should have blocked the shot because I jumped so high, but I guess I just landed wrong and didn’t see where I was landing, so that’s kind of what caused the injury.”
Ware has taken a peek at the replay, but turned away from the screen, he told CNN on Wednesday. It’s about keeping his attitude upbeat for his team.
“I honestly never want to see the video,” he said. “It puts me in a mental state that I don’t want to be. That would just stop me from being where I need to be, especially if I feel I want to be successful with basketball.”
And while his teammates were horrified at the gruesome injury, Ware said it was divine providence.
“This is all God. This is all God’s plan. He would never let anything happen that He wouldn’t want to happen,” he said.
Ware was taken to hospital to repair the ugly break.
Louisville beat Duke by 22 points, while he was in surgery, to win the region for the Cardinals. He hopes he may have inspired the victory.
A photo posted on the Internet shows Ware’s jubilant teammates holding up his jersey as they celebrated their win over Duke. It netted them the NCAA championship trophy for their region and propelled them to the tournament’s Final Four in Atlanta this weekend.
The mishap triggered a heaping dose of well wishes.
Ware got a phone call from first lady Michelle Obama. He is unable to remember the conversation, because he was still heavily sedated.
“Please, please call again,” he implored the first lady in the CNN interview. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
A Facebook fan page popped up Sunday and has filled with nearly 80,000 fans. It sported photos and well wishes documenting his journey from injury to surgery and beyond, and includes a photo of him in his hospital bed holding the NCAA regional trophy his team won in the game he was injured in.
Ware has been touched by the public support.
“I’m a very quiet guy, so a lot of this is really new to me, you know,” Ware said. “I really just appreciate everybody and the support I have right now.
The NCAA regional trophy was lying in his bed while he was still unconscious. It was the first thing he woke up to.
“It was like Christmas, but basketball Christmas,” he said.
Moment of shock
When Ware first crashed down onto the court’s boards, his mother Lisa “just lost it,” she said.
“It really did look that bad,” she told CNN.
Ware called his mother from the emergency room to put her mind at ease.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Mom, calm down, I’m OK,’” she said.
Ware intends to return the court.
The broken leg, held together by two metal plates, will heal in eight to 12 weeks, he said.
“I will play basketball again,” Ware said. “I know patience is key.”
Team rallies around him
Earlier Wednesday, Ware recounted at a news conference his distress the moment his leg broke and immediate support from his teammates.
He said he was surprised to see some of them crying.
“Everybody was in real shock, and just looking around and seeing that, it was devastating,” said Ware, who was using crutches Wednesday.
“But they pulled it through, and that’s really most important right now,” Ware said.
The injured player looked down at his body. It changed his state of mind.
“I see my bone is 6 inches out of my leg, and I go into automatic shock,” he told reporters at a news conference. His foot was dangling off of his shin like a limp rag.
Faith and inspiration
Teammate Luke Hancock came over to Ware as he lay on the floor and said a prayer for him.
Ware said to himself that “I’m either going to cry … or I’m just going to try to say some words (to help the team).” He thought of his team and put the pain behind him.
In a two-hour surgery, Ware’s broken tibia was straightened and a rod was inserted into it, according to a statement from Kenneth Klein, senior associate athletic director for media relations at the university.
For the team and victory
In spite of the pain and the road to recovery ahead, Ware is still thinking of his team, not himself.
“I’ll be fine, but (we’ve) still got to win this championship,” he said.
Mr. Inspiration is ready for the Final Four, where his team is two games away from a potential national championship.
He has already made his way to Atlanta to cheer the Cardinals on in person. During his interview with CNN, he and his mother donned T-shirts with the words “Win it for Kevin.”
Louisville takes on Wichita State at 6:05 p.m. ET Saturday, with the winner advancing to the national championship game Monday.
CNN’s Dan Moriarty contributed to this report.