Wayne's World: Blackshear leading Louisville

SEATTLE - One of the most criticized players to put on a University of Louisville uniform, senior Wayne Blackshear is also one of the most successful. He's two points from scoring 1,000 and will lead the Cardinals against Northern Iowa on Sunday night.

University of Louisville senior Wayne Blackshear arrived on campus four years ago as a former McDonald's All-American with a ton of hype after being named Chicago Player of the Year over Anthony Davis.

Injured for 16 games his freshman season, Blackshear has never lived up to the hype - according to some fans - and has been one of the most criticized players in recent memory.

But don't try and tell that to U of L coach Rick Pitino or any of Blackshear's teammates. The senior will lead the Cardinals into the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night just two points from 1,000 for his career.

"It's very easy to criticize, it's very easy," Pitino said. "It takes no talent at all to criticize. But the coaching staff, every coach that's coached Wayne Blackshear, thinks he's the greatest kid in the world, thinks he's one of the hardest workers. So we have never one time criticized him. We all think we have been tremendously blessed by his presence at the University Of Louisville. So it takes no talent to be a critic."

Blackshear has played in 122 U of L wins - only 14 other players have player in 100 or more - and the Cardinals have only been out of the AP top 25 three weeks of his career.

He has 998 career points and can become the 67th player in school to hit the 1,000-point mark, while has also needs two rebounds for 400. He's averaging just 1.1 points fewer than Luke Hancock did last season and U of L is 27-6 in March during his career.

"That's a pretty good career," sophomore Terry Rozier said. "We don't worry about what other people say, we know what Wayne can do and what he has done for this program. He's a winner and he's a leader for us."

Added Montrezl Harrell: "That's why we don't listen to anyone outside of this locker room. Wayne's been great for us, we know what he's capable of doing."

But still Blackshear has been the center of plenty of jokes and the fan base on message boards, social media and talks shows have been very critical.

"I'm not around you guys all the time, but I never hear you criticize Wayne,” Pitino said. “So when I hear things like this, I'm not sure who is criticizing. It's obviously probably some fans who call in or write in, whatever that is. But all of you who have covered Wayne understand what a gentleman he is, understand how humble he is.

"Wayne decided when he came here that he's going to fit into whatever the coaches asked him to do. Now we have asked him this year, look, we want you to drive more, paint touch more and that's just in the last two months. We don't want you just spotting up. We want you rebounding more, paint touching more, getting to the free-throw line. He's done all of that. He's had a terrific year. So, I guess he came out with such a great reputation of high school. . . . He's a young man that has been part of three 30-win seasons, a National Championship, two Final Fours, three conference championships. I don't know how many people can win more than him. And now he just had a great game (Friday) and when we needed him, when our two best players weren't scoring much."



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