ATLANTA (CBSNewYork/AP) — Kevin Ware was with his teammates Saturday on Louisville’s Final Four bench.
There was a loud cheer when Ware arrived on crutches and was surrounded by a crowd of photographers, followed his teammates onto the floor before the Cardinals’ matchup against Wichita State. He sat in a chair by the Louisville bench, with his injured leg resting on a stack of towels in another chair.
Ware said he feels “great” after suffering a stomach-turning tibia injury.
“Obviously, it’s great to be home,” he said in a brief, pregame interview on CBS.
“I’ve had a lot of support, and I really appreciate it.”
Ware signed with Louisville from Rockdale County High School, about 30 miles east of Atlanta.
Throughout much of a back-and-forth first half, Ware watched the game passively. He was unable to join the Cardinals during timeouts, with the team huddled on the raised court above the bench at the Georgia Dome.
Ware’s right tibia snapped and broke through his skin in last Sunday’s Midwest Regional victory over Duke. The brutal injury ended his postseason as a player but didn’t end his role as a teammate. Before he was taken off the court that evening, he told the shocked Louisville players to “win this game.”
Louisville players paid tribute to Ware, No. 5, before their national semifinal, wearing T-shirts over their jerseys in pregame warmups with the words “Ri5e to the Occasion.” Louisville’s pep band also wore the T-shirts.
A Louisville fan held a sign reading “Wa5e them out!”
Ware had surgery Sunday night, was released two days later and on Wednesday flew with the team to Atlanta.
He also found time to read the top 10 list of “Thoughts going through Kevin Ware’s mind” on David Letterman’s TV show after he broke his leg. His No. 1 item: “At least my bracket’s not busted.”
Ware was so exhausted he fell asleep at the team’s dinner table on Thursday night. That convinced team officials to decide he needed a full day of rest Friday so he would be able to attend Saturday’s game.
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