Kevin Ware a 'different guy' for Louisville

NEW YORK - One of the most improved players on the University of Louisville basketball team in the final few weeks of the season has been Kevin Ware. A move to the point guard position helped Ware become "more comfortable." He's become a key role player off the bench heading into this week's Big East Tournament.

Nothing was coming easy for Kevin Ware.

The University of Louisville sophomore was struggling on the floor and said he just didn't "feel very comfortable at all," early this season.

The 6-foot-3 Ware saw his minutes slip in mid-January with only 26 minutes in a four-game stretch, including a season-low three against Georgetown.

Ware was then suspended by U of L coach Rick Pitino for a week, not allowed to practice and he missed the game against Pittsburgh. But since then, U of L junior guard Russ Smith said Ware has "been a different guy."

After missing one game, Pitino reinstated Ware and he's become an integral part of the Cardinals' attack heading into the Big East Tournament play.

"He's really improved, he's more comfortable," Pitino said. "We moved him to the backup point guard spot and we're playing him a lot more at point during practice, so it's really helping him. He's really improving."

Ware, who made several key plays against Syracuse and Notre Dame, is averaging 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 20 minutes a game over the last nine games. U of L is 8-1 in those games.

"I'm just going out and playing," Ware said. "(After the suspension) coach (Pitino) and I talked for about an hour and a half. It was mainly my attitude. He felt like my demeanor was like I just didn't care about anything.

"But that's not me, I am just kind of laid back. He didn't really know what I was thinking because I don't say much, so I had to let him know."

It seemingly worked.

After missing the game against the Panthers, Ware played 14 minutes and had two steals against Marquette. He's scored five or more points in all but two games since then, getting eight points, four assists and four rebounds against Notre Dame.

"He's played great," junior Luke Hancock said. "He's just giving us that extra dimension off the bench. Defensively, he's long and athletic and helps us pick it up. He's just really played well for us."

Perhaps the biggest moment of the season for Ware came against Syracuse when Peyton Siva struggled and was 0-for-9 from the field. Pitino turned to Ware, who had eight points and five rebounds.

Ware played most of the minutes down the stretch and had a key steal and hit three free throws in the final 30 seconds.

"He's really becoming a player," Smith said. "He just had to get more comfortable. Nobody really knows just how good he is. He can be one of the more explosive players in the country."

Ware is just happy to be contributing to the team and is still working on getting better to help the Cardinals win a few more games.

"I feel my role is important," Ware said. "The guys around me let me show what I can do. Coach told me to just go out there and play basketball.

"I was kind of like back to my freshman year of being nervous and not playing my game. I just had to go out there and do it."

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