Behind The ScenesNCAAB

Rece Davis reflects on interview with injured Louisville guard Kevin Ware

A few days after suffering a gruesome season-ending leg injury in the NCAA Midwest Regional, Louisville Cardinals guard Kevin Ware gave ESPN’s Rece Davis his first on-camera interview Wednesday.

ESPN’s Rece Davis
(James Dockery/ESPN Images)

Ware, who is expected to be out at least a year but has been cleared to attend the Final Four in Atlanta this weekend, granted College GameDay host Davis the interview in Louisville.

Afterward, Davis gave Front Row some insight on the interview.

How did the interview come about?
I reached out to [Louisville coach] Rick Pitino to let him know I’d like to interview Kevin when the time was appropriate and Kevin was comfortable talking about the injury. This is with a young man who has experienced a horrific injury and I am grateful Rick and Kevin trusted us to know we would handle a life event this impactful appropriately. They were extremely helpful in arranging it. Give credit to [ESPN College GameDay Senior Coordinating Producer] Lee Fitting for driving how we’d handle it and [News Producer] Jonathan Whyley and [Bureau Producer] Mike Flasch for helping set it up, too.

How much have you worked with Pitino?
I’ve built a friendly, professional and trusting relationship from interviewing him on multiple occasions and working with him when he was a guest analyst for ESPN. Sometimes we get criticized for having relationships with the people we cover, but you also have a professional understanding that both sides have a job to do. We are going to critique when it is warranted and they are not going to give you all the information you need for a story. And in this case, Rick’s first concern was how an interview would impact Kevin. Rick is like a lot of coaches who are very protective of players who are put in adverse situations. But he also understands how this can help Kevin and how he can use it as an opportunity to thank all of the people who have reached out to him and wished him well. Kevin realized that as well and wanted to do the interview.

What was your impression of Ware?
Kevin was the epitome of inner strength, class, dignity and poise. This wasn’t just something that happened in a movie where they get up and walk a few weeks later. This is a young man who has improved his game more and more as the season progressed and a freak accident took a chance for him to play in the Final Four away. He is a really quiet guy who doesn’t say a lot. His strength to come on with us and tell us what he was facing was really remarkable.

Anything in particular strike you about his demeanor?
The emotion of him talking about what his teammates meant to him. I was also intrigued by his answer about what could persuade him to watch the video and he said nothing could make him watch it. He said part of the healing and getting back to the court is getting that image and thought of what happened out of his mind. He said it’s like the scary movie as a kid — you don’t want to see it. I thought that was pretty telling. He also firmly believes that the team would not have won if he didn’t tell them to win it and he would be fine. They were devastated and he pulled them together.

This whole situation has impacted him tremendously. I believe one of the reasons he wanted to talk was he was a little overwhelmed. Not just by the injury but overwhelmed and deeply touched by the support.

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