(Picture via UKAthletics/Twitter)
With the reigning National Player of the Year being sidelined at the moment, the other forwards and centers on the roster have had numerous opportunities to step up and continue proving their worth. In the two preseason exhibitions, Lance Ware has cemented himself as one of them.
Exh. 1 Stats: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks in 16 minutes
Exh. 2 Stats: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 3 blocks in 22 minutes
While he had shorter time clocked-in for the first exhibition, he still showcased his ability to be an all-around big man with his stats coming from multiple categories, but clearly the second outing against Kentucky State was his best. The Junior went for a near double-double while also postering one of his opponents, and letting him know about it during the process.
Without the starting center being available, Lance Ware has taken advantage of his opportunity and cementing his role on this year's team, which will be a bang-in-the-post spark off the bench who can give you a handful of rebounds and points on any given night, while also putting up pretty solid defense against the more "grittier" type of opponents.
Lance has acknowledged the opportunity that was presented to him just before the regular season arrived, saying, “It has been good. Just to go out there and get reps. Obviously wishing Oscar (Tshiebwe) a speedy recovery. But just knowing what I’m supposed to do.”
When asked to compare the two performances, he explained what led him to have a better night stat-wise against KSU rather than Missouri South Western. “I made free throws. I think we played faster. We made shots. First game we didn’t really make any shots, so it is hard to play fast when you’re missing a lot of shots. We made shots, opened up the floor and got a chance to run. Cason did an unbelievable job. The guards did an unbelievable job speeding up the game for us.” It seems like it's the quick guard play that helps create more options for Lance when he's subbed in, and he credited that to them after the 58-point (unofficial) win.
Last season Lance Ware only played 21 games, average just over 12 minutes a game. While it's no debate that Oscar Tshiebwe will be the starting big man, it's nice to have a player like Ware who completely understands the role he has, how he plans to bring it all every chance he gets and doesn't pout about being the 'upperclassmen backup' like some players might, and embraces being a potential spark that this team might need down the road when they get into the core of the schedule.
Until Oscar returns, Lance will keep getting chances to show up for this team and proving that he belongs, which he definitely does.