Senior Day is always a time where we get to look back and really appreciate what a player has meant to our program. Before the ball is tipped on Saturday evening, we will get to honor Wayne Blackshear, and if anyone deserves accolades and applause for his career, Wayne certainly does. The first word that comes to mind for me when I think of Blackshear’s career is consistent. Wait, what? How can someone score 19 points against NC State and then score 0 points the next game against Syracuse be consistent? Well…
: always acting or behaving in the same way
: of the same quality; especially : good each time
The word consistent can also be used to describe the expectations for Wayne every year. It seems like every off-season, the notion was always “the key to this team making a run is Wayne Blackshear.” And “Wayne Blackshear is the X-factor. If he plays like the guy he was in high school, this team goes to another level.”
The next phase of the plan has stayed consistent too. Blackshear would come out and not average 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, and people would call him a bust and say he isn’t the McDonald’s All-American from high school. There was talk when he got to UofL that Wayne could be a one-and-done player because he was that talented. And because he wasn’t, it seemed like a disappointment to some people. Count me in as someone that is very happy that Wayne was not a one-and-done player.
The criticisms of Wayne through the years mainly come because of the lofty expectations coming out of high school. Since he was a McDonald’s All-American, some people thought he was going to come in and just flat out dominate. When he didn’t, people complained. Why not just look at the kid’s career as a college player and forget about high expectations from someone playing against high school kids? I am well aware that he won awards in Chicago over Anthony Davis. Trust me, we all know that by now.
Wayne played a total of 105 minutes as a freshman, a season hampered by his shoulder injury. He averaged 2.5 points per game. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.6 points as the starter of the National Championship team. He averaged 8.2 points as a junior. As a senior, he is averaging 10.7 points per game. That is improvement every season. He has 952 total points for his career and has a shot to reach 1,000 depending on how many games the Cards can squeeze out in post-season play. Some people still aren’t satisfied because of those high school expectations. As a college player, he has had nothing short of a solid career and been consistent.
Ever heard of Wayne getting into trouble off the court? Nope. The worse thing you have heard about him is that he may or may not eat too much Wendy’s. And if that is a crime, then just handcuff me now because I love me some spicy chicken sandwiches. And if there were ever anyone that could have easily found himself in trouble while at UofL, it is Wayne Blackshear. Just look at who else was in his class at one point or another: Chane Behanan, Kevin Ware, Chris Jones, and Zach Price. Every one of those players have had some kind of trouble off the court. Think of how differently today’s senior day could have been. Wayne never wavered. He stayed the course. He has consistently been a model citizen and student at the University of Louisville.
These (per game) stats have improved every season since he has been at UofL: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, free throws made and attempted, free throw percentage, and three pointers made and attempted. Yet we can never look at that and say “Wayne just needs to keep improving and be that steady hand for the Cards.” Rather, we say “Wayne has to be that All-American for this team to win.” We are too blinded by expectations to really appreciate how solid and productive he has been.
If anyone deserves a standing ovation this evening, it is Wayne Blackshear. He committed to Louisville when it wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do. He stayed out of trouble when his classmates weren’t doing the same. He has won numerous academic awards. Oh, and when Michigan got out to a 5-0 lead in the National Championship and their fans were going crazy, it was Wayne Blackshear that hit a 3-pointer to get the night started for the Cards. He can take a look up at that banner tonight and know that he helped bring that to our city, to our school. For that, we should always be grateful.
It’s not always about points and highlight plays. When Rick Pitino talks about being a “Louisville man” and buying into the system, Wayne Blackshear has done just that. He has been consistent and a very good player for Louisville.
For that, I say “Thank you Wayne.”