I apologize for the delay in the resumption of this series. I previously have covered Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, and Verdell Jones III. The obligations of my real job, a vacation, and yes, the usual burnout that follows seven or more months straight of blogging about the football and basketball seasons all played a role. I'll try to push through in the next couple of weeks.
I'm working down the list of IU players in the order of points scored per game, roughly ( I took Hulls and Jones out of order). Creek ranked fourth on the team with 8.3 points per game, but, of course, because of the season-ending injury he suffered against Michigan on January 15, Creek played in only 18 of IU's 32 games and in only five Big Ten games. In his first two seasons as a Hoosier, Creek has played in only 30 of IU's 63 games and, more importantly, in only 5 of IU's 38 Big Ten regular season and tournament games. The absence of Creek has not been the cause of all of IU's ills. Creek was on the court for some of IU's worst moments of the last two seasons. Still, the re-emergence of Creek as the player that IU fans watched in 2009-10 would be important for the program. Whether he can do that physically, after suffering fractures to each of his kneecaps, or whether he can overcome what I would guess would be significany psychological hurdles, will be something to watch in 2011-12.
As noted, Creek averaged 8.3 points per game in 20 minutes of play. These numbers were down from Creek's 2009-10 average. When Creek was injured in December 2009, he was averaging 16.4 points per game, which at the time was the highest scoring average of any freshman in the country. More significantly, Creek was doing it fairly efficiently. Creek shot 53 percent from the field as a freshman, 45 percent from three point range. He shot 76 percent from the line. Of course, the major caveat on Creek's freshman numbers is that they were accumulated entirely against non-conference competition. Creek's first knee injury occurred before Big Ten play began that season. Still, he was reasonably consistent, and his 31 point effort on 9-14 from the field, 5-8 from three point range, and 8-8 from the line in a loss to Kentucky, remains the highlight of Creek's career. Hopefully it will be a footnote by the time he was done.
In 2010-11 (Yahoo stat page here), Creek played 18 games, 13 of which came against IU's soft non-conference schedule and 5 games in the Big Ten. In other words, while it's not easy to compare Creek's numbers to those of college basketball at large, it is reasonably easy to compare his two seasons. Obviously, 2010-11 included a pretty meaningful dropoff. His minutes dropped from 25 to 20, his overall field goal percentage from 53 to 38, his three point percentage from 45 to 31. As I mentioned above, his scoring average was cut nearly in half. As a freshman, Creek averaged 1.8 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game. As a sophomore, he averaged 1.2 assists and 1.4 turnovers in slightly less game action. Perhaps the most glaring drop in production in Creek's stat line was on defense: Creek had 1.4 steals per game as a freshman but only .2 per game as a sophomore. His Big Ten numbers were even worse. Creek shot 37 percent from the field and 22 percent from three point range.
Of course, all of this stat talk simply confirms what IU fans saw with their own eyes when watching Creek as a sophomore. He was a shadow of the Maurice Creek that we saw as a freshman. There has been a fair amount of second-guessing of the decision to play Creek rather than redshirting him, but I don't really buy it. Nearly ten months elapsed between Creek's December 2009 injury and IU's first practice in October 2010. It seems unlikely that the one injury led to the other. I suppose there was some risk of overcompensation, but I'm not a doctor, and it's tough to speculate about these things. Sadly, we don't know if Maurice Creek ever will be the same. I generally do not follow IU players or recruits on Twitter, but from what I have read of re-tweeted comments he has made recently, I have no doubt that he has the right attitude. I hope he can work his way back from a tough injury history to make the second half of his IU career much steadier than the first half.