NCAA Basketball Tournament - Indiana  v Kentucky

Maurice Creek: “Physically, I’m doing really well”

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Does the name Maurice Creek ring a bell for you?

No one blames you if it doesn’t. Creek, who is now in his fourth year at Indiana, had a terrific start to his freshman campaign. Through 11 games, he was averaging 17.6 points, which included a 31 point performance in a loss to Kentucky. Creek never truly got much national attention, however, because Indiana still wasn’t any good at that point.

In the 12th game of the year, Creek went down with a torn patella tendon. The injury ended his season. He returned as a sophomore, but was no where near 100%, averaging just 8.3 points, before a stress fracture in the patella in his other knee forced him to have surgery and shut down his season. And then last October, Creek suffered his third devastating injury, tearing an Achilles’ tendon in a non-basketball activity.

Three surgeries in 22 months.

And he’s finally healthy.

“Physically, I’m doing really well. You feel the aches and pains during practice and stuff like that, but over time it goes away,” Creek said in an interview with the IU Athletics Department. “I would have thought I’d have been on a day-to-day process, but I’m going full-go and I’m grateful for that.”

The question heading into this season is going to be the role that Creek plays.

By the time the first game of the season rolls around, Creek will have gone 22 months without playing a real basketball game. It will have been just under three full years since he played a game fully healthy. Will he be able to score like he used to? If he can’t — which is not only expected, but understandable — will he be able to adapt to being a role player? Will he be thankful that he’s able to get back on the floor after three surgeries or angry at the fact that he had three years taken away from his athletic career?

As of now, Creek is at least saying all of the right things.

“It’s very exciting to be back with the guys. They had a great season, it was very exciting,” he said. “Now that I’m coming back with them, I just feel like I gotta catch up to their level. At the same time, I just worry about what they do and try to help them out anyway I can.”

“I just want to be myself and play my game, and whatever happens from there happens. […] I don’t want to rush nothing, I don’t want to force anything. Just play how the team plays and go with what the team do, and win games. It’s all I really care about.”

Creek has two years of eligibility remaining. He’ll have a chance, if he stays healthy, to get back to where he was. But at this point, his focus seems to be on simply getting back out onto the Assembly Hall floor.

“I just can’t wait to have that jersey on again and play with the guys again in a game.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.

Incoming Gator freshman ineligible for upcoming season

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Florida will need to wait a year before seeing 6-foot-11 recruit Gorjok Gak playing games for the Gators.

The NCAA ruled that the incoming freshman will be able to enroll at Florida this year and practice with the team, but will be ineligible for games this season, the school announced Tuesday.

Should he meet all his progress marks during his freshman year, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.

Gak’s eligibility issue centered on his playing games during his postgraduate year at Victory Rock Prep, according to his coach there.

“Following his graduate year from Australia, he was supposed to play from December to December,” Loren Jackson told the Gainesville Sun, “but instead played from December until the following May.”

Gak originally signed with Oklahoma State, but de-committed following Travis Ford’s firing in Stillwater this past spring. Gak averaged 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last season at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Fla.

Florida went 21-15 last season under first-year coach Mike White.

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

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Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”