Sure, the 6-4 guard didn't play great in the Derby Classic last month, but Ware is a much better player – and prospect – than he showed at the KFC Yum! Center. He's not only a consensus Top 100 prospect, but he led his high school to the state title game in talent-rich Georgia as a senior. The kid can play. There's a reason why Ware was considered Bruce Pearl's top recruit and chose UofL over Georgia, a rising program in a rising league nationally.
Ware also might not be the most popular recruit with fans after telling InsideTheVille.com that Louisville was his frontrunner after bolting from Tennessee before committing to UCF – a school UofL fans love to hate – a day after receiving an in-home visit from Rick Pitino.
But Ware is potentially a significant late addition for a team Rick Pitino, college basketball experts and fans expect to make a run nationally next season. Before Ware's commitment Monday, Louisville appeared to have all the pieces to challenge for the Final Four next year except someone to adequately spell junior point guard Peyton Siva.
Ware, though, might be able to play both guard positions. A natural two-guard with great length and above-average athleticism, the four-star prospect has the ball skills in the open court to suggest he might be able to adjust his game to play some at point guard behind Siva as a freshman. Whether Ware can adequately spell Siva is a critical question for Louisville.
Rick Pitino talked recently about being in the final chapter of his career and was clear that he plans to make one more run at the Final Four and Louisville's third national championship. Ware could help Pitino reach the top of the mountain one more time.
The Cardinals return several key players from a team that won 25 games and beat NCAA Champ UConn twice during the regular-season, including Siva, injured former starters Rakeem Buckles and Jared Swopshire, veteran wings Kyle Kuric, Mike Marra and Chris Smith, and promising young center Gorgui Dieng.
But it's Louisville's Top 5 recruiting class – a class that just got stronger with the addition of Ware – that has Pitino and Cardinal fans excited about the next couple seasons. Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan, both McDonald's All-Americans, have the talent to start over established veterans right away. Center Zach Price and forward Angel Nunez have sizable upside and could contribute. Ware, the fifth member of UofL's incoming recruiting class, could be the answer behind Siva at the point. It's a recruiting class that addresses key needs while adding more talent to an experienced returning roster.
Anticipating a deep and talented - albeit young – team, Pitino planned a foreign trip this summer that will give his freshmen a head start on practice. Prior to playing games in the Bahamas in August, Louisville will be allowed 10-days to practice. Pitino's newcomers better expect lots of double-sessions during that time-span.
That head start should give the rookies time to adjust to Pitino's practice regimen, learn the ‘playbook,' and ‘gel' with Louisville's returning players. It's a significant advantage for the Cardinals heading into a promising campaign, and it should give Ware extra time to figure out his role in Louisville's deep rotation next season.
Rick Pitino's time is running out to hang another NCAA banner in the Yum! Center before retiring as one of college basketball's greatest coaches. Kevin Ware gives the aging legend a better chance to upend the UNC's, Duke's and Kentucky's in the end.