Column: Welcome back, Maurice Creek
Thursday’s game against Indiana Wesleyan may have just been an exhibition for the Hoosiers, but for IU guard Maurice Creek, the game meant much more.
For the junior from Oxon Hill, Md., the exhibition was his first game since Jan. 15, 2011, when he suffered a season-ending stress fracture in his knee against
After recovering from the stress fracture, Creek looked like he was back on track to play for IU until he ruptured his achilles heel in the fall before the 2011-12 season.
“Being out there with these guys is what I have always wanted, and praise the man upstairs, God, for giving me the strength to play with these guys,” Creek said. “To sit down for like a year and a half, it kind of hurt.”
Creek didn’t have to wait too long Thursday night to end his painful journey back to the court.
At 10:57 in the first half, the guard was inserted into the game and took his position in the low post with Indiana Wesleyan at the free throw line.
Instantly, Assembly Hall erupted into the loudest cheer of the night.
As the crowd continued to cheer and chant his name, I could see Creek smile to himself from my seat in press row.
It was a smile that released all of the weight of the world off his shoulders.
For the first time in almost two years, Creek was back where he belongs — on the court and in front of thousands of well-wishing fans.
“It was a great, great, great, great reaction,” Creek said. “A standing ovation, that’s big time, and that’s love. I could do nothing but thank and appreciate everyone that stood up for me. “
The moment wasn’t just emotional for Creek. It was a moment that touched everyone in the building that stood by Creek through the pain and tough times.
“It was emotional watching the crowd react to him,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “It’s not surprising because it’s Indiana, but nonetheless you never take it for granted. I don’t think any of us who have lived with him have taken for granted how special it is that he is back out there.”
Throughout the game, Creek continued to give Hoosier fans reasons to jump out of their seats cheering.
After entering, Creek glided around a Wildcat defender on his way to an easy layup and perhaps the loudest cheer ever for an exhibition game layup.
A few possessions later, Creek drilled a 3-pointer to give him five quick points in his first six minutes of action.
In 15 minutes, Creek scored 12 points (4-of-6 from the floor, 2-of-4 from downtown) — the most of any Hoosier — and racked up a rebound and a block in the Hoosiers’ 86-57 win.
“The shooting was good, he stayed in his shot, but I think the way he came off the dribble was the most impressive thing tonight from him,” Crean said. “When he shows that burst, that shows that the legs are getting a little stronger.”
As this season goes on, Creek will look to keep building up strength in his legs, while getting back into the swing of a college basketball season.
In a night where the result of the game doesn’t have any regular season implications, one lesson came through loud and clear.
If you’re looking for an IU player that better represents the determination, hard-nosed attitude and courage of the Indiana men’s basketball program, look no further than Creek.
When life kept beating him down, he never gave up on his dream of playing for the Hoosiers.
“It wasn’t easy, and there were a lot hard days, but he got himself through it not once, not twice but three times,” Crean said. “The mental aspect of that I can’t even imagine. He’s quiet, but that is one tough, tough young man. No question.”
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