No one would wish what happened to Maurice Creek on anyone.
Not their worst enemy, not their most bitter rival, not anyone.
Just 12 games into a promising freshman season — one where Creek was averaging 16.4 points and all of 16 days removed from putting 31 points up on then-No. 4 Kentucky — Creek suffered a gruesome injury to his left patella. That required surgery. He rehabbed the injury only to return at half-strength as a sophomore, hobbling through 18 games before shutting his season down due to a stress fracture in his right patella. That required surgery, as well.
And when Creek finally got healthy, he blew out an achilles in a non-basketball activity last October. That, too, needed surgery to heal, meaning that Creek would miss the entire 2011-2012 season.
So you can imagine why, when Creek returned to the court for the first time since January 15th, 2011, he received a rousing ovation from the Indiana faithful:
“It was very emotional watching the crowd react to him,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said.
Creek clearly felt the same way.
“It was a great, great, great, great reaction,” Creek said with a sheepish smile after Indiana’s exhibition win over Indiana Wesleyan. Seriously, four greats. “A standing ovation? That’s big time. That’s love. I can’t do nothing but thank them.”
While the ovation Creek received was undoubtedly one of the moments that makes college basketball so special, and the perseverance he’s shown over the last 22 months to get healthy and get back out on the court is admirable, to say the very least, I still find this story heartbreaking. Creek is a shell of his former self. While Crean did say that Creek showed a little bit of burst in the exhibition, the notable quote to come out of the press conference was when Crean said “it’s still hard from him to put day after day together”.
Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the toughness — both physically and mentally — required for Creek to do what he did. I know I wouldn’t have been able to make it through that constant rehab and three major surgeries. Creek strikes me as the kind of person that is going to be very successful in whatever field he ends up in when his playing career comes to a close.
It still sucks that having his body break down on him is the reason he won’t have the same chance to make playing basketball his profession.