In the aftermath of the broken leg he suffered in Louisville’s win over Duke in the 2013 Elite Eight, guard Kevin Ware became a very popular figure. While the injury itself brought about sympathy and well wishes from people in all walks of life, his road to recovery motivated many as well. For some the increased attention would be more than welcome, but for Ware it eventually became suffocating due to the focus on his injury.
And with this move the hope is that Ware will be known primarily for his on-court production and not the injury that ended his sophomore season.
Ware gradually stopped attending practices and games. He said he met with coach Rick Pitino sometime in January, and they agreed then that it would be best for him to continue his career elsewhere. Ware said the decision remained under wraps until season’s end because the team did not need a distraction. He added that the perception that he and Pitino had a rocky relationship is inaccurate, saying that Pitino has “probably been the most helpful out of anybody.”
“I just feel like me leaving is a fresh start,” Ware said. “I know a lot of people think of me and think of the leg. But, I mean, I play basketball. I don’t want to be known as a guy who just played for Louisville and got hurt.”
Ware will be joining a program that fell one win short of reaching the NCAA tournament last season, and with guards R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow returning the hope for head coach Ron Hunter’s squad is that they can take the next step and win the Sun Belt’s automatic bid.
With regards to Ware’s status the expectation is that he’ll apply for an immediate eligibility waiver since the plan at Louisville was for him to redshirt in 2013-14. And regardless of when he’s allowed to take the floor for the Panthers, the new beginning of sorts will provide Ware with the opportunity to make sure the lasting impression of him comes from how he plays the game.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.