Creek eager to show Hoosiers fans he’s back

Maurice Creek spent the last 21 months trying to get back onto

the basketball court so he could show Indiana fans what he can

still do.

He gave them a brief glimpse Saturday night.

The 6-foot-5 junior, who has been beset by three season-ending

leg injuries, danced into Saturday night’s madhouse at Assembly

Hall, received a rousing ovation and then showed he still has the

shooter’s touch.

”I’m feeling great, it’s great to be out here,” Creek said

before jogging over to hug his mother. ”Everybody’s supported me

and I’m happy to be back, thank you.”

It’s been a long-time coming for a guy who was supposed to be

one of the cornerstones of Indiana’s rebuilding project.

After enduring three straight season-ending leg injuries, seeing

the Maryland native back active was the most compelling moment on

the night Indiana officially embarked on its most anticipated

season in a decade.

Over the past four years, fans came to Indiana’s version of

Midnight Madness, for various reasons – to support a team that had

been gutted in the wake of an NCAA scandal, that was trying to

rebuild and that seemed to be on the precipice of something big

after Creek decided to shrug off the 6-25 mark Tom Crean compiled

in his first season and join the Hoosiers.

This time, they came to see a team being hyped as a national

championship contender.

The difference from previous years was clear.

Despite pushing opening night festivities back one week because

Indiana’s students were on fall break last week, and to give

recruits a chance to visit campus after attending other places last

weekend, every seat inside Assembly Hall was filled for the first

time in the history of the event.

Some students started camping out Friday afternoon despite

steady rain and chilly temperatures. When the doors opened at about

4 p.m., three hours before player introductions, the lines were

snaking around the arena and quickly moved inside for autographs

and Hoosiers merchandise.

The coveted tickets disappeared in about one hour and everyone

else was turned away.

”Just because we were down doesn’t mean that people weren’t

trying to get us,” Crean told the crowd. ”There were people that

didn’t want to see it, they didn’t want to see it (the program)

come back. It is coming back. It is back.”

Creek was back to, savoring every second of a celebration he has

far too often had to witness from the sideline.

When Christian Watford hit the 3-pointer that beat Kentucky and

put Indiana basketball back on the national map, Creek was only a

few feet away – in street clothes.

It’s been that kind of career for Creek, who started fast as a

freshman and appeared destined for a big career.

But during a December game in 2009, Creek landed awkwardly on

breakaway lay-in and was later diagnosed with a season-ending

broken left kneecap. Thirteen months later, in almost the exact

same spot, he caught a long inbound pass, scored on a layup and

crashed to the floor. Doctors diagnosed him with a stress fracture

in his right kneecap, ending that season and sending him back to

rehab again.

Then, when it appeared Creek was ready to come back a second

time, he slipped and fell down the stairs in October, tearing his

left Achilles tendon and costing him yet another season. He arrived

for last year’s big preseason event on crutches.

Now, after all of that, Creek is back yet again. He was cleared

by team doctors to run through full practices weeks ago, insists

he’s left the past behind and insists he has no fear about

sustaining yet another injury.

”I don’t think it changes your way of life,” he said. ”All

you can do is pray for a healthy season and a full-go season.”

There’s still no guarantee Creek will return to his pre-injury

form, though teammates insist that Creek has looked good throughout

the summer and over the past week at practice, and if the old Mo is

back, it will make the Hoosiers even better than expected.

”He look great, getting better every single day with rehab and

playing with us,” guard Jordan Hulls said. ”I think people have

forgotten about Mo, and I think he’s going to make us better as a

basketball team.”

All Creek really wants to do, after averaging 11.5 points in 30

career games, is help his teammates win and give those fans who

supported him through the injuries a performance they won’t

forget.

”I’ve got some things that I’ve got to show because I haven’t

been on the court in a long time,” he said. ”I feel better than I

did two years ago, and I feel a lot stronger and a lot bigger. I

feel like I’m back where I should be, and, yeah, the shot’s still

good.”