Maurice Creek hasn't played in a real basketball game since January 2011. What can we expect from the senior in his return to the game?
Maurice Creek began his IU career as a standout. One of two four star recruits in Tom Crean's first major recruiting class (not counting the eleventh hour class he assembled in Spring 2008), Creek instantly became a leader of the team. He led IU with 17 points in his first career game, against Howard, and scored at least 15 points in 9 of the 11 full games he played that season. His most memorable performance was a 31-point explosion in a blowout home loss to Kentucky, and he followed that with a 29 point effort against North Carolina Central. At the time of his injury, Creek led all of the nation's freshmen in scoring at 16.4 points per game, and he didn't get there by being a ball hog. Creek shot 53 percent from the field, a remarkably good percentage for a freshman guard being asked to carry the load for an awful team, and shot 45 percent from three point range on 3.2 attempts per game. He also shot 76 percent from the line. In short, as a freshman, Creek was perhaps the lone bright spot on a team that would finish 10-21. That all changed on December 28, 2009 against Bryant (IU's opening opponent this year, by the way) when Creek went up for a layup early in the second half of what would become a 90-42 IU win. Creek went up for a layup, and despite no impact or obvious bad landing, he crumpled to the ground after fracturing his left kneecap. (Click through here if you want to see a horrifying photo that is nonetheless an excellent piece of photojournalism). Creek was done for the season, but returned in time for the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
As a sophomore, Creek was a shadow of himself offensively. His shooting averages were way down--38 percent from the field, 31 percent from three--as was his scoring average (8.3) despite playing only five fewer minutes per game. He just wasn't there. Against Michigan on January 15, 2011, the scene was eerily similar to what happened against Bryant 12 and a half months earlier. Creek went up for a layup, and went down. This time, he was able to walk off the court, but the result was the same, except this time he broke his right kneecap. Creek again entered rehabilitation mode, and was ready to begin the 2011-12 season when he ruptured his Achilles tendon while on a staircase.
Other than players who have suffered career-ending injuries, I can recall no player who has drawn a worse hand. In three seasons, he has played a total of 31 games, and none in nearly two full years. In his career, he has seen the court in only five Big Ten games. Hopefully, Creek's history of injuries is over. If so, what in the world can we expect from Mo this season? Tom Crean has been adamant that had Creek not been injured, he would have been gone by now, as an early entrant to the NBA. He was fantastic as a freshman, but definitely had lost something as a sophomore. Will he ever regain his athleticism? That's impossible for us commoners to know until we see him in a game. I know that Crean has raised concerns about Creek's strength and conditioning. At the very least, however, if Creek can regain his shooting form, then he can play a valuable role off the bench. He shot 44 percent from three point range as a freshman with virtually no supporting cast. If Creek is destined to be nothing but a taller if slightly less accurate version of Matt Roth, then he still will help the team. On the other hand, if he can recapture what he had as a freshman, then he will end up in the mix for playing time along with Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, and Jeremy Hollowell. If that happens...wow. A team that looks deep without accounting for Creek at all becomes incredibly deep.
Again, I haven't a clue what to expect from Creek. I didn't have the chance to see Hoosier Hysteria. Even if I had, I still would prefer to defer judgment until mid-December to see how Creek is doing after he gets acclimated to live action. More than anything, I hope for his sake that he's able to be productive. I can't imagine how horrible the last three season must have been for him. He had to suffer through the conclusion to two horrible seasons, knowing that he could help if he were healthy. Then, last season, he had to watch IU's return to relevance without having the chance to be on the court. This should be a special season regardless of what Creek brings, but I hope he can play a key role for what appears to be an excellent team.