On Thursday night, Maurice Creek returned to Assembly Hall in the most meaningful exhibition -- an 86-57 win over Indiana Wesleyan -- of his career. He led Indiana with 12 points in a remarkable comeback.
According to the Indianapolis star, the Indiana faithful rose and cheered when he entered the game in the first half, a standing ovation for a young man who decided to fight through multiple knee injuries and continue his career. Creek has played in just 30 games in three years.
Maurice Creek felt pretty special when he entered Indiana's exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan on Thursday night. How could he not?
The crowd of 17,186 gave him a standing ovation with 10:57 left in the first half, recognizing his return after missing last season because of a torn Achilles tendon. The redshirt junior guard responded by scoring a team-high 12 points in No. 1 IU's 86-57 victory over the Wildcats.
"It was a great reaction,'' said Creek, who has been beset by injuries throughout his college career and has played in just 30 games in his three years at IU. "A standing ovation is big time. That's love. I appreciate everyone that stood up for me."
IU coach Tom Crean was impressed, too.
"It was very emotional watching the crowd react to him," Crean said.
Crean said Creek appeared to be most effective off the dribble.
"When he shows that burst, it shows the legs are getting a little stronger," Crean said. "He's still a ways away in that sense. It's still hard from him to put day after day together."
Creek’s struggles are thoroughly documented.
An explosive freshman season (16.4 ppg in 2009-10) was derailed by a left knee injury. He missed most of the following season with a right knee injury. And weeks before the start of the 2011-12 campaign, he suffered an Achilles injury as he walked up the stairs to his apartment.
He’s back now, however, with the intention of fulfilling the potential he had when he originally joined Crean’s program. The ceiling might be lower now for the former top-100 prospect, given the impact that the injuries have had on his athleticism.
He can contribute as a reserve, however, to the No. 1 team in America in 2012-13. And that will be a victory for Creek and the program. If he grows into a substantial role in the coming months, more kudos will follow.
In my opinion, he’s already won.
If he’d decided to terminate his career and pursue other interests after suffering three separate -- and consecutive -- injuries, we’d understand. But Creek chose to fight and try again. Based on that resilience, Creek deserved that standing ovation in Bloomington.
His story is one that’s relatable far beyond the basketball court. Even folks who don’t enjoy sports can appreciate Creek’s predicament, since we’ve all been knocked down and presented with the question he’s faced multiple times throughout his career: “Should one attempt to stand again?”
Creek has probably pondered that query multiple times since 2009. And every time, he’s offered the same response: “yes.”
And that says a lot about his character.