The Indiana Hoosiers have big expectations for the season after being ranked first in the AP pre-season polls. The Hoosiers started the season last night with an 86-57 victory over Indiana Wesleyan.
The dominating victory was not the highlight of the night though. It was Maurice Creek.
Over 17,000 fans gave a warm welcome to Creek in his return to Assembly Hall. After 21 months of therapy Creek finally made his debut back onto the court.
Creek was projected to be one of Indiana’s best players and an NBA shoe in after starting off his freshman year averaging 16 points. Unfortunately, his season was ended by a fracture in his left kneecap. His sophomore season was also ended early with a stress fracture in right knee and just days before the 2011-2012 season, Creek tore his Achilles, sidelining him for yet another season.
The perseverance Creek showed through the injuries was well worth it when he stepped back on the court. The standing ovation Creek received as he checked in mid-way through the first half was well deserved. Many people would have given up the dream of playing after experiencing not one, not two but three severe injuries.
Although Creek lacks the same athleticism, strength and quickness that once ensured him a career in professional basketball, he played with the same passion and heart.
The roar from the crowd and chants of his name from the student section left Creek emotional. Head Coach Tom Crean was also emotional, but excited about the return of Creek.
Crean feels that Creek will eventually become a part of the regular rotation for the Hoosiers this season. Creek certainly proved he is capable of putting the ball in the basket, leading all scorers for Indiana last night with 12 points, but on the floor might not be where he will have the biggest impact.
After sitting on the sidelines for three years, Creek has had the chance to see the game from a different perspective. He knows what Crean expects from his team and through watching, he has developed basketball knowledge greater than most players. Great teams need players that understand the game and can communicate what needs to be done. Creek can certainly step up into a leadership role for this Hoosiers team and do this.
Creek’s ability to overcome his injuries has displayed such mental toughness, gaining respect from not only fans, but also his teammates. This mental toughness is an attribute that is contagious, and sharing it with his teammates will only make this team more deadly.
Indiana is predicted to do great things this season and there is no doubt that Creek will play an instrumental role in this. Last night was only a start.