Ware giving Wildcats a boost off the bench

Published 7:23 am Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Lance Ware is preparing for the future and doesn’t mind playing behind Oscar Tshiebwe.

“Oscar is really good in the way he’s playing right now — he’s unbelievable,” Ware said Tuesday. “This is the role that I’m giving right now (and) I have to make the best of it. I could pout (and) not want to play, but, I’m just gonna make the most of my opportunity and, you know, do what I can.”

Ware has been proving the fifth-ranked Wildcats valuable minutes off the bench as a backup to Tshiebwe, a national Player of the Year candidate. The sophomore center scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in the Wildcats’ 80-62 win at Kansas last Saturday.

“ I try to bring as much energy as possible, provide a spark, whether that means rebounding while Oscar is taking a break, blocking shots or just making the right play just kind of come in and just do whatever I can, whether that be for five or 10 minutes, just do whatever I can to help the team keep momentum or just go and get started,” he said.

Ware added that competing against Tshiebwe in practice every day has been a blessing and one that he doesn’t take for granted.

“Obviously (he has) got me way better,” he said. “The physicality part of being able to try to rebound against him, box out and stuff like that because you’re not going to find that too often somebody that’s built like him and can do the things that he can do. I just I love it, even though it’s a challenge every day, but that’s good. That’s what I came here for. — a challenge, and I definitely get that with Oscar.”

Kentucky assistant coach Chin Coleman admires the way Ware has handled the adversity this season, especially after playing a major role on last year’s squad.

“ He’s continued to get extra work in the gym,” he said. “He’s always in the gym. He’s always a selfless guy, is the biggest cheerleader for everybody else. I and I talked to Lance and I told him that his time will come. He’s going to be a big piece to help us being great.. … I’m so happy for him because he could have folded. He could have went into the tank and pouted and listened to the clutter. But he’s doing an unbelievable job and we’re happy to have Lance and he’s going to help us a lot.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari has raved about Ware’s recent play, which Ware said has given him more confidence.

“It just makes me want to work harder,” he said. “If he’s giving me this praise, I want to keep on being able to perform. I just don’t want to be just one game. I want him to keep on getting better every single game. And, you know, helping my team every single game.”

Ware hopes the Wildcats can build on the team’s success it enjoyed in the win over the Jayhawks last Saturday, a win that propelled Kentucky to No. 5 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday. Ware said the team can’t focus on past successes in moving forward.

“We know that there’s bigger goals and, we have to still win games,” he said. “Obviously beating Kansas (was) a big win that we needed. But there’s still more to accomplish. Hopefully that gets us going and we can build off that. We just don’t want that to be our last big win.”

Gametracker: Vanderbilt at Kentucky, Wednesday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytodaycom and via twitter at keithtaylor21.