Louisville Cardinals sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered one of the most visually devastating injuries in recent sports memory on Sunday, sustaining a compound fracture to his tibia in the team's Elite Eight clash with Duke.
As gruesome as the scene appeared to be, the severe setback will end his chances of competing in the Final Four, but in all likelihood, it won't end Ware's promising career.
Ware underwent successful surgery on Sunday evening, according to a report by USA TODAY's Steven Jones, Matthew Frassica and Adam Himmelsbach. Louisville's team sports medicine doctor, Fred Hina, indicated that the recovery time is expected to be lengthy—but not career-ending.
It's an injury that needs to be dealt with in a swift fashion due to the fact that it was open, and there are infection concerns, and then obviously you need to stabilize that fracture...One thing you have to establish is, is there circulation below the fracture? Did he disrupt any arteries or veins? Once we establish that, it's stabilizing the fracture as tight as we can so that it doesn't move.
Since it appears all went well with Ware in the procedure at Methodist Hospital, there is reason to believe he will be back.
As documented in the USA TODAY report, Dr. Craig Roberts, who is the chairman of Louisville's department of orthopedic surgery, said Ware would show signs of healing in eight to 12 weeks in the best of scenarios.
Dr. Robin West, a Pittsburgh Steelers orthopedic surgeon, estimated that Ware's recovery time would be about eight months, which would keep him out for the first few weeks of next season.
The timing is especially tough to swallow, considering how well Ware played recently. In the team's previous game in the Sweet 16 against Oregon, Ware had his best showing in a Cardinals uniform in terms of scoring, notching a career-high 11 points.
Ware's rising role with Louisville will definitely have to be put on hold for a while. If he can overcome this big of a setback, though, it could wind up being one of the more rousing comeback stories in college basketball when he returns to the hardwood.
One positive that came out of the dejected atmosphere Ware's injury caused in Lucas Oil Stadium was that the Cardinals rallied around their fallen teammate, easily crushing the Blue Devils 85-63.
Head coach Rick Pitino and other Cardinals admitted as much, and the coach indicated that if it were not for Ware's persistent imploring of his squad to focus on the task at hand, Louisville could never have recovered (h/t ESPN):
I don't think we could have gathered ourselves—I know I couldn't have—if Kevin didn't say over and over again, "Just go win the game."...I don't think we could have gone in the locker room with a loss after seeing that. We had to gather ourselves. We couldn't lose this game for him.
Even this gruesome injury should not prevent Ware from being a prominent contributor over the next two seasons. He has outstanding athleticism and has also developed a wonderful stroke from the perimeter, shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range in 2012-13.
Although it was a small sample size, Ware possesses plenty of innate talent that will only be accentuated by the coaching prowess of Pitino in the next couple of years.
The fact that Ware even had the presence of mind to talk to his teammates and deflect the attention away from his injury in the midst of agonizing pain shows the kind of leadership he has, despite his status as a role player.
That type of fortitude is sure to win the respect of everyone in the Cardinals program and should continue to drive the team. Bleacher Report helped document the encouraging development Monday brought on Twitter (via @KKcards), as Ware was already up on crutches, wearing his "Champions" hat:
Despite Ware's awful circumstances, he should return to the court for Louisville again, and it will be captivating to see what he does with an even bigger role when he does.