COMMENTARY: An emotional loss for Creek, Hoosiers

The flash came 7:50 into the game on Saturday.

Maurice Creek drove through the lane, flying past the Michigan defenders and easily laying the ball in for two points that gave Indiana a 14-9 lead.

It was a three-second, if that, play that was easily forgotten in a 80-61 win, the first Big Ten win of the season for the Hoosiers.

It was his second layup of the day that leaves Creek’s sophomore season now in doubt. With 1:43 remaining, Creek seemed to extend past his range of motion to catch a full-court pass and, while he layed the ball in for two points, fell into a heap underneath the basket.

He walked off on his own power, and it seemed to be OK — it was the right knee, not the left knee he injured last season. He returned to the game at the next stoppage in play, some 12 seconds later. Coach Tom Crean did not seemed concerned at all when asked about the play during the postgame press conference.

All of which made Crean’s announcement on Monday during his radio show — that Creek is out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture on his right patella (as well as swelling in the knee) — all the more shocking.

Creek was so close, as his first basket on Saturday proved. He was slowly becoming the player he was. The player he wants to be. The player Indiana needs him to be.

“This is our guy, and he’s right there,” Crean said during the radio show. “… It just felt like it was really, really close to breaking for him.”

He still walked with a limp, one his parents insisted he always had but no one noticed. He didn’t always have the elevation necessary to make jumpers at a high percentage, or the burst necessary to get past his defender.

But he wanted to be back. He wanted to be great. Sometimes, that matters.

“I told him, ‘You can either be a good basketball player or a great basketball player,’” said Pammy Morgan, Creek’s mother, before the season began. “I asked him, ‘What do you want to be? Do you want to just be good? Do you want this to be your legacy?’ He said, ‘Mom, I want to play and I want to be a great basketball player.’”

Now, we’re looking at a situation in which Creek may never recover. Or, at least, not to the level he once was — a guy who was the leading freshman scorer in the country (16.4 points a game) after 12 contests.

His freshman season, of course, ended with his left patella tendon, an excruciating injury none of us will soon forget watching and then reliving.

Creek, to his credit, fought to get back. He did not sit back and take his rehab slowly, pushing himself.

Time and time again, Crean cautioned that it would take time. That it would take patience. That everyone needed to lessen expectations.

In fact, he even said Indiana may never see Creek at his best again.

“It’s gonna pay off for him,” Crean said. “But I don’t think we’ll see his best basketball at Indiana. I think his next coach will. I really do. We’ll get as much out of him as we can, but I think his next coach will see the high level of him.”

It goes without saying that knees are important to a basketball player. Careers are ruined by wonky ones, NBA tenures lengthened by ones that seem to only need icing.

Knee injuries change your game, and Creek had tried to adapt. He had been a productive player for Indiana, most recently off the bench. The opposition respected him and his abilities, and he occasionally showed progress.

But he was largely a jump shooter — and not a particularly good one.

Creek’s 38.9 percent field-goal percentage is the worst on the team (save Kory Barnett, who is 1-of-5), as is his 31 percent 3-point rate.

This wasn’t as much of a physical loss as it was an emotional one. The Hoosiers can replace Creek’s 8.3 points and 20 minutes a game, by giving Victor Oladipo and Jeremiah Rivers a few more minutes of action.

Emotionally, though, this is devastating. For Creek, for Crean, for everyone.

8 comments

  1. Hugh, you really made a bone-headed comment “Now, we’re looking at a situation in which Creek may never recover.” Unless you are an orthopedic surgeon or have talked in depth with one who knows Maurice’s situation, you don’t have ANY basis for that comment. You simply made that up! There is no place for “opinion” on a medical issue from a sports writer. Don’t for a minute think that the use of “may” saves you from severe criticism for this unjustifiable and ignorant comment. In the article you talk about “knees” as if an ACL injury, a MCL injury, and a patella injury are the same in terms of rehab, limitations on future athleticism, time for recovery, etc. They are not. You apparently have no clue concerning the difference between a shattered or fractured and a stress fractured patella. When you do not know what you are talking about, it is usually best to remain mute. Simply report the facts.

  2. Wow BP, Hugh isn’t allowed to voice his opinion and thoughts in a COMMENTARY? You do know what a commentary is, right? Hugh has every right to his opinion and also has a valid point. Creek showed numerous times early this year that the thought of that knee was apparently in his head when he would draw up or not plant for a layup. Now that he has had a second injury in 2 seasons, this time to the other knee, there is always the possibility that Creek may never fully recover from the injury during his time at IU, not just physically, but mentally. It’s not a popular opinion, but it is still a possibility.

  3. I would bet that his career is pretty much over, at least in the hopes of making it to the NBA. Let’s all hope he is taking advantage of the opportunity to get an education that has been given to him.

  4. If his injury from last year is about healed (it’s been just over a year, what you’d expect) and this one is less severe (I think a stress fracture would be less severe than a complete break of the kneecap), it seems to me that he’s not as bad off as last year at this time. But I’m not a doctor of course.

    I wonder if IU can apply for a redshirt year for him as he’s only played about 1 season in total, in 2 years on the team. Somehow I doubt that, it’s too logical for the NCAA, but it sure would be nice.

    Regardless, I wish him luck in rehab, and perhaps this won’t be as tough to come back from as last year’s injury. Hang in there, Maurice, we don’t forget our players when they’re hurt.

  5. Another injury to this talented baller is a shame. The word indefinite is hope for the best in the short term but planning for the possibility of being season ending. But to me it may offer an opportunity for a positive future in the fact time off and more rehab may be what is needed to allow him to come back from both injuries with game ready progress much farther along than he did this last Fall after the first one. To me that is the posture he and the staff have to take advantage of.

  6. Anyone that has had or know of someone who has had this injury please chime in. Is this an injury that puts him back on the court next year or is this something that would cause IU to consider a red shirt next year?

  7. IMO Creek will RS next season and fully rehab. Highly, highly doubt he comes back. It all depends on the severity of the injury and how well he responds to therapy on it. I always thought he should’ve been shirted this year to let him get to 100% despite being cleared by Drs. to play. It was undeniably evident that Creek was maybe at 60% on the floor, everything looked off in regards to his game. Can’t question his character and work ethic he wanted to play. Hopefully, this injury isn’t as serious as it can be and he gets back to full health soon.

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