Less than eight months after suffering a gruesome leg injury in the Elite Eight, Louisville guard Kevin Ware made his return to the court in the second half of the Cardinals’ 90-61 victory over Pikeville in the reigning national champions’ second preseason exhibition. Ware hit his first field goal attempt, a three-pointer, and finished the evening with six points and four rebounds.
Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com described Ware’s return to the court:
Ware primarily played the shooting guard spot, reaching the scorer’s book for the first time at the 9:24 mark by grabbing a rebound with the Cardinals up 66-44.
He hit a three with 8:28 left that brought the entire arena to its feet. He grabbed another rebound on the next defensive possession and brought the ball up the court.
The Louisville Courier-Journal posted video of Ware’s return to the court. Welcome back, Kevin.
As for the game itself, junior guard Chris Jones (19 points, six rebounds) and sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell (18 points, six rebounds) led the way offensively for Louisville. Senior guard Russ Smith added 12 points and a game-high seven assists, with Wayne Blackshear joining them in double figures with ten points.
It should also be noted that Mangok Mathiang accounted for nine points and nine rebounds on the evening. While Pikeville was no match for Louisville, which opens the regular season with the College of Charleston on Saturday, the Cardinals can certainly use the production from post players such as Mathiang with Chane Behanan suspended indefinitely.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.