One by one, athletes from the University of Louisville streamed into Captains Quarters by the River on Tuesday night for the Cardinal Caravan.
The more than two dozen athletes from all sports signed autographs, greeted fans and were on stage talking about their respective sports.
The final two athletes to arrive were Russ Smith and Kevin Ware. Smith came in with his trademark wide-eyed smile and Ware arrived without crutches. When the two were called onto the stage with the Ohio River in the backdrop many of the near 1,000 fans in attendance were stunned to see Ware not need any help.
"It feels good," Ware said about not having crutches. "I don't have any pain (in the leg). I'm just trying to do the rehab to get back on the court.
"For me, its just about getting back on the court. I am still a student athlete here at the University of Louisville, so I have to get it done."
Ware is also back on the court and shooting jump shots, noting that he's not really jumping but "going about midway."
"Coach (Pitino) was actually shocked," he said. "He was up on his (balcony) and he didn't know if it was me or not, so he called my name out. I looked back at him and I think he was really surprised. I'm just trying to do what I can."
The 6-foot-2 junior guard suffered a gruesome broken right leg on national television during the NCAA Elite Eight game against Duke. He became a national storyline for the next few weeks as the Cardinals rallied around him after the injury and went on to win the NCAA national title.
"How it happened, I think I am always going to be remembered as the guy who broke his leg," Ware said. "But just how I inspired people and tried to make this a real positive situation, that's what's important to me."
With the injury just over two months ago, Ware said "a lot of people think I am crazy," for already walking around without crutches and doing some limited basketball activities. But he was the injury has healed quicker than expected.
"It's good, I feel much better," he said. "I went home for a bit and just tried to do some form shooting. I am just trying to get things back to normal right now."
Ware, who is walking with a slight limp, said he hasn't taken any painkillers that were prescribed to him for more than a month. He said he's sorer from having his wisdom teeth removed last week than the leg injury.
"They don't want me putting too much pressure on it," he said. "But it feels fine. It can get a little sore after a workout but it's fine."
While he said he wouldn't watch the injury ever on a replay, Ware does expect to be back on the court – and this season for the Cardinals. He said the prognosis has always been six months and he "will be back."
"Honestly, I am just trying to take it one step at a time," Ware said. "But there's no reason I shouldn't think I will play this year. They told me six months and we start practice on Oct. 2, I think. I'm going to be back out there.
"If they tell me I can get back on the court, I'm getting back on the court.
Ware said he wants to be a leader for this year's team and some of the newcomers, including point guard Chris Jones, a longtime friend of Ware's. But he also wants to make sure fans know he's going to be ready "to not just be back but play and play a key part to this team."
"I know Russ (Smith) is back and Chris Jones is coming in," Ware said. "But I want to compete for a starting spot. That's my plan."