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Wayne Blackshear's Place in History

So how do you think history will view Wayne Blackshear?

Why don’t you grab a Wendy’s Double w/ cheese value meal, two orders of 5-piece nuggets and a frosty and we’ll discuss.

Let’s set the stage on Christmas Day, 2009.

The Louisville basketball team was the least liked of the Pitino era. Their talent was a letdown from the previous year, which was the best basketball squad in America (Goran Suton is from Yugoslavia). Freedom Hall was the Napa Valley of the Commonwealth, with fine whining from the likes of Jennings, Samuels, Smith and Sosa.

Earlier that month, the Cardinals had dropped back-to-back home games in the ceremonial final season of Freedom Hall. The home losses were to Charlotte and Western Carolina, basketball programs only an AAC mother could be proud of.

On the final game before Christmas, the Cards beat the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, but it was without the services of "potential season saving Power Forward if only Pitino would play him at the same time as Samardo Samuels" Terrence Jennings. The sophomore was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Off the court, Rick Pitino announced he was the target of an extortion attempt in April of that year. This would linger on until August of 2010 when Karen Sypher was ultimately found guilty of attempt at extortion and lying to federal agents by a federal district court. It was a national news story that could not go away fast enough.

It would be unfair to dismiss what was happening 70-miles East. In April 2009, John Calipari was hired on as the head basketball coach of the University of Kentucky. As this whale of a hire beached on the shores on Lexington, some barnacles – namely John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and William Wesley – were still attached. The sun had set on the Gillispie era and the Kentucky Wildcats were set for brighter days.

It was not a fun time to be a Louisville Cardinal basketball fan.

And then, on December 24, 2009, a young gentleman from Chicago who spent most of his youth enjoying Hawaiian Rolls gave Card nation what they needed more than anything...Hope.

Wayne Blackshear, the second greatest athlete in Morgan Park history, was one of the top basketball recruits in the country. The Burger Boy and his family gave their commitment to join the Cardinal basketball family. His accolades and unwavering commitment to Louisville is a story that has been told by our fearless leader.

But today’s history lesson is not one about loyalty or ability, it’s about progress.

Progress could be seen on this very .com.

Three short days after the announcement of one of the top recruiting commitments in the history of Louisville basketball, Card Chronicle posted an announcement of Blackshear’s commitment. The commitment was #3 on a list of CC Cardinal Holiday Recap notes. There were a total of 7 comments on the thread.

I personally joined Card Chronicle on June 15, 2008. These were the times of ULHotHot’s reign on CC. He posted KenPom stats and all 23 of us registered members read on in wonderment (HotHot created that word and made us use it) on the defensive efficiency of Preston Knowles and Mike Marra’s quantitative claim for more playing time.

Fast forward to 2014 and the top incoming Louisville basketball recruit is Donovan Mitchell. Many of us learned of the commitment shortly after it happened with a tweet from @CardChronicle (~ 25,000 followers now) about the ‘Summer of Rick’ continuing. We logged in to Card Chronicle that night to read the story, which had 141 comments on it from the likes of Raina (est. Dec. 28, 2009), KCCards (est. Sept. 4, 2010), GOCARDSATTITUDE (est. Jan. 4, 2011), Mr_Hobbes (est. Aug. 30, 2011) and Gorgui Goodtimes (est. Aug. 30, 2011) (what a day!). In the post, we saw a TwitPic with 539 retweets of Donovan Mitchell sitting under a National Championship banner in the lavish Yum! Center locker room.

In the time since Blackshear announced his commitment to the University of Louisville, the world and the basketball program we all care about so deeply has changed. The deck of Cards has been reshuffled.

We went into the hand wanting a King, but Blackshear ended up being the 7 of spades that gives you your flush on the river during your hottest streak at the casino. Blackshear is what we needed, when we needed it.

Because of Wayne Blackshear, change has been progress, and that has defined his four year term as a member of the Cardinal basketball team. Between his commitment and ultimate arrival, the Cardinals dropped first round tournament games to California and Morehead State. That changed.

We all know that at the University of Louisville we judge our House of Cards by the ceiling. Progress is two more banners and one with the brightest light of all shining on 2013. Blackshear did not hand stitch either of these, but he is in the fabric of the teams that interior decorated the Yum! Center.

Blackshear won a Big East championship, an American Athletic Conference (AAC) championship, and then was the captain for the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) season. Now, Louisville finds itself part of the finest basketball conference in America for the foreseeable future.

Three different assistant coaches (Keatts, Pitino, Richardson) and his main recruiter (Masiello) all moved on to be the head coach at Division-I programs. And now, Wayne is bench BFFs with the newest Cardinal assistant Kenny Johnson.

Basketball became REALLY big business for the University of Louisville Athletic Association, especially with the introduction of the Yum! Center in 2010. And then in 2014 the University of Louisville Athletic Association signed a 5-year, $39 million hallmark contract with Adidas. Blackshear didn’t ink the business, but he was part of the business and a fashionable part at that. He wore infra-red, he wore camo sleeves, he wore this on the red carpet of the ESPY’s and he wore cummberbunds off the red-carpet.

Over the past few years, players and fans have had to adapt to social media. Blackshear was one of the first Louisville athletes we followed.  While misuse of social media was rampant among student athletes, it was always fun with Wayne (who was self-aware). Over the years, Blackshear has been a focal point of some of the better memes in Card Chronicle history (like this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (& this) (&this).

Blackshear was supposed to be joined tomorrow by Chane Behanan, Chris Jones, Angel Nunez, Zach Price and Kevin Ware. A 6-pack of talent, but only one of the beers wasn’t skunked, making what Blackshear brought to our program even more intoxicating. So cheers to Wayne, who will grab a microphone to a standing ovation from 22,000 as an academic All-American.

That constituency of 22,000 fans and thousands of other Cardinal faithful across the country ultimately wield a great deal of power to choose how we define the success of student athletes.

We have chosen to put collegiate athletes under a microscope like politicians. Recruiting rankings are campaign promises that will inevitably be broken. With every missed free throw, 2-12 shooting night, Trillion in the stat sheet, questionable foul and errant pass approval ratings plummet.

But our vote for Blackshear was always the gut feeling he was the right candidate to be behind. He was our guy on the right wing and the left wing every time he pulled up for three and we tried to wish the ball in. And we fanatically rallied for our guy during the West Virginia game in 2011, when we watched Anthony Davis get put on a poster, the Dunk against Duke and the Big Shot against North Carolina.

In our democracy, Wayne Blackshear is the people’s choice.

And if we treat our athletes like politicians, history will most certainly judge them as such. Over a term, the progress of the nation supersedes any individual accomplishments.

Winston Churchill once proclaimed, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it".

Blackshear has not written his autobiography yet. Stay tuned, because March is when the Hancocks and Griffiths grab their pens.

But when the history books are written, the democracy will be the ones to write it. We will look where we were on Dec. 24, 2009 and we will know where we are tomorrow... and history will be kind, because we the people pursued happiness and we found it with Wayne Blackshear.