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INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Ware will be able to return to Louisville on Tuesday as long as an infection doesn't develop in his surgically-repaired leg, coach Rick Pitino said Monday. The coach also said the expectation is that the guard, who was walking on crutches Monday morning, will be able to be with the team in Atlanta for the Final Four.
|Rick Pitino and his son, Florida International coach Richard Pitino, pose with Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who holds the Cardinals' regional championship trophy in his hospital room Monday.|
Ware had surgery to reset a broken bone in his right leg Sunday night in a two-hour procedure where a rod also was inserted into his tibia. Pitino showed up at the hospital a few hours after Louisville's 85-63 victory over Duke and presented Ware with the Cardinals' Midwest Regional championship trophy.
"I was there to visit with him last night when he got out of surgery," Pitino said. "This morning he's doing terrific. He's in great spirits. He received phone calls from Joe Theismann, Greg Anthony. A lot of positive calls. He's on crutches. They want his blood flowing.''
Ware's girlfriend stayed at the hospital overnight, and Pitino said Ware's mother arrived Monday morning. Pitino said the guard was "not in a whole lot of pain.''
The Cardinals travel to Atlanta on Wednesday night, and Pitino said they expect to have Ware with them.
"As you know, Kevin is from Atlanta," Pitino said. "He gets to go home, be with his family and be with us on the bench."
Ware sustained the horrifying fracture in the first half of Sunday's Midwest Regional final when he landed awkwardly after trying to contest a 3-point shot, breaking his leg in two places. He was taken off the court on a stretcher as his stunned teammates openly wept.
Pitino told The Associated Press that Ware "saw us win the trophy and was crying and said it was all worthwhile," coach Rick Pitino told The Associated Press. "We didn't cut down the net, but I left him the trophy."
Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback who famously sustained a broken leg on "Monday Night Football" in a game against the New York Giants, told the NFL Network earlier Monday that he had already exchanged texts with Ware. He said he also reached out to Tennessee Titans kick returner Marc Mariani when he suffered a similar injury during a preseason game last year.
"I just told [Ware], anything he needed, I'd be there to help him with anything at any point in time," Theismann said. "There aren't a lot of us that have gone through this ... Fortunately it's a very small fraternity of people that have experienced what this young man has experienced or what Marc had or what I had."
Theismann said that watching Ware's injury made him "sick to my stomach."
"I plan on communicating with him a lot over the next periods of time. There's two elements to rehabilitation ... there's the injury that heals ... and then there's the emotional aspect of it," Theismann said. "The emotional part of it is where I think I can maybe help walk him through it. I can tell him everything he's going to feel, I can tell him everything that he's going to go through emotionally."
Theismann said that with medical advances, Ware's healing process will be quicker and that the guard will "be right back on the court in a year from now."
Louisville trainer Fred Hina told Pitino it was the same injury that derailed the Heisman Trophy hopes of running back Michael Bush, who also played at Louisville. Bush recovered from the injury and has had a productive NFL career with Oakland and Chicago.
Bush was watching the game Sunday and tweeted that he "cried" and that the injury was a "flashback of myself."
He told the NFL Network on Monday that he got Ware's number from his former trainer and Zach Price, a player on the Cardinals basketball team, and plans to call him later in the day.
"He's got a long road but it's doable. I've done it," he told the NFL Network. "I guess I didn't have time to really grieve, I had to be strong for my family to let them know that I was OK. But just to see that happen to someone else was difficult. I don't want that to happen to my worst enemy."
Ware has played a key role in the Cardinals' second straight Final Four run, scoring 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 25 minutes in the regional semifinal win over Oregon, and on Sunday he was the primary motivator. Before leaving the court, he called his teammates over to prod them to win the game and not worry about him, a message he continued to express at halftime. And he was eager to return to Atlanta, where he played high school basketball.
For television viewers, it was a gruesome sight that prompted many to express their sentiments on social media sites. CBS even stopped showing the replay, which was not seen inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
For Louisville players and coaches, it was far worse. Guard Russ Smith said he didn't see the play but he heard the bone snap. And forward Chane Behanan, Ware's closest friend, said the sight was almost unimaginable.
Pitino, one of college basketball's top winners, thought he had seen just about everything in the sport until Ware's injury.
"I went over and I was going to help him up and then all of a sudden, I saw what it was and I almost literally threw up," Pitino said.
Ware's teammates were overcome with emotion, too.
Luke Hancock patted Ware on the chest after Ware rolled himself to the sideline and right in front of the Louisville bench. Behanan and several other players sat on the floor as Ware was treated and some, including Behanan, cried. Duke guard Tyler Thornton covered his eyes when he realized what had happened, and Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski even told Pitino that he would agree to let the teams warm up again if they wanted.
They didn't, though Pitino did summon Ware's teammates so he could speak to them. His message was simple: Win the game.
"I said, 'We're going to dig in. We're going to play this game to the end. We're going to play this game to get him back home,'" Pitino said, explaining his halftime speech. "We'll get him back home, nurse him to good health and we're going to get him to Atlanta."
Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear fell to the floor, crying, and Behanan looked as if he was going to be sick on the court, kneeling on his hands and feet. Peyton Siva sat a few feet away, a hand covering his mouth.
Someone finally pulled Behanan to his feet, but he doubled over and needed a few seconds to gather himself.
Louisville, the top overall seed in the tourney, missed four of its next five shots but regained its composure to take a 35-32 halftime lead and went on to an 85-63 victory.
"We won this for him," Pitino said. "We were all choked up with emotion for him. We'll get him back to normal. We've got great doctors, great trainers. We talked about it every timeout, 'Get Kevin home.'"
Behanan switched into Ware's No. 5 jersey near the end of the game.
Afterward, he kept it on and the Cardinals players led the heavily partisan Louisville crowd in chants of "Kev-in, Kev-in."
"We had to do this for Kevin, that's our whole thing," Siva said. "Coach told us that we needed to get him back home, and I think it would have been a tougher loss for us if we would have gone out there and lost."
Information from ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil and The Associated Press was used in this report.