When Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel went down after tearing his ACL Tuesday night I couldn’t help but think about how unfortunate that is. A young player that is sitting atop NBA mock drafts for this coming June took one wrong step, planted awkwardly and in the blink of an eye, well, he just might have to come back for one more year.
His development is going to take a set back and that is extremely unfortunate. But before Kentucky fans start panicking and running around yelling the sky is falling, perhaps they should take a step back for a moment and, hard as it may be, consider what Indiana’s Maurice Creek’s battle with devastating injuries has been like. Let’s just hope Noel, or anyone else who plays a sport in general, never has to experience the triumphs Creek has had to endure.
A fractured knee cap in 2009-10, torn Achilles in 2010-11 and most recently an injured foot that has sidelines him for most of this season, has made up the four seasons at IU for Creek. You want to talk about a falling draft stock and setbacks? Creek was averaging 19 PPG as a freshman in 09-10 even putting up 31 points on Kentucky when John Wall was running the point.
These aren’t little injuries throughout a season that nag a player. No, we are talking about two injuries that some players often never come back the same from after surgery and rehab. So before Creek can even begin to think about draft stocks and the chances he still may or may not have in the NBA he has to rehab back and then find his way into the rotation through a depth chart that has become full of top tier talent.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an athlete go through what Creek has gone through and still fight his or her way back onto the court or playing field, but I hope he can be an example of not giving up on yourself and what busting your ass can truly get you.
I’m looking at you Mr. Noel.
Maybe staying another year, or two, wouldn’t hurt you. At the end of the day that is something Noel, his family and coach John Calipari will have to discuss, unfortunately, I think we all know where that will lead.
Regardless, Maurice Creek deserves a deep tournament run that ends with a Final Four appearance. He deserves a national championship and more than anything, once fully rehabbed from this most recent injury, he deserves every NBA scout’s undivided attention and an opportunity to get in and work out for teams. Yes, I know that there is certainly high risk for an unknown reward, but, isn’t that the case with just about every draft pick?
Nothing is guaranteed. Nobody understands that better than Creek, he has lived it, but more than anything, throughout all the setbacks and road blocks along the path he has traveled I’m not sure if there is another young man who would have handled it in a more positive and optimistic way. It will certainly be hard to convince NBA scouts that a kid who has seemed more injury prone than bubble boy is worth taking a chance on, but that isn’t Creek’s job, to convince and negotiate. He just needs to keep his head up as he has always done and continue to grind.
My hat is off to you Mr. Creek.