If Kevin Ware is ever going to play an integral role for Louisville again, it's probably not going to be this season.
Rick Pitino revealed Monday it's likely Ware will not play the remainder of this season while trying to fully recover from the gruesome broken leg he suffered in the Elite Eight last March.
Ware returned to a standing ovation during an exhibition victory over Pikeville on Nov. 7, but he isn't yet as explosive as he was before the injury and he has played just 53 minutes in parts of nine games this season. The junior guard was kicked in the right leg against Missouri State earlier this month and has not played in Louisville's two subsequent games.
Pitino is hopeful Ware will be closer to his former level by the start of his senior season next fall. Assuming Ware graduates in four years as expected, he would then have the option of applying for a fifth season either at Louisville or elsewhere as a graduate transfer should he feel the need to drop down a level to find a school at which he'd be able to play more minutes.
"The trainer doesn't feel he can get back to the level that he was at [this season,] Pitino told reporters at his press conference in Louisville on Monday. "I think he will get back to where he was. It was a bad break, but it's not a Kobe [Bryant] situation with the Achilles or an ACL. It's just a bad break that needs time."
Ware's plight will surely generate headlines Monday because his bravery after his injury struck a chord with fans across the country.
As he lay in front of the Louisville bench last March with his right leg broken so badly that the bone was protruding from the skin, Ware called his teammates over and told them not to worry about him and to go win the game. Ware later became a rallying cry for his team and an instant celebrity nationally as the Cardinals went on to rout Duke in the Elite Eight and defeat Wichita State and Michigan in Atlanta to capture the national championship.
From a basketball standpoint, however the seemingly imminent decision to shut down Ware isn't the biggest loss Louisville suffered Monday. Pitino also announced forward Chane Behanan has been dismissed from the program because of an undisclosed violation of university policy.
A reporter began to ask Pitino about how it would impact Louisville going forward not having Behanan and Ware when the Cardinals coach interrupted.
"Ware is not a factor on our basketball team," Pitino said bluntly. "He hasn't been this season. Behanan is a major factor."
Indeed Louisville has plenty of guard depth to make up for not having Ware this season. Still, it will be a terrific moment if the junior is ever able to make a significant contribution on the floor again to the Cardinals program.