Maurice Creek

Maurice Creek could return soon for Indiana, what could he bring?

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Tonight, Don Fischer, play-by-play man for Indiana basketball, said on the Indiana/Penn State pregame show that redshirt junior Maurice Creek is only a week away from returning from a right foot injury for the Hoosiers.

Creek’s career in Bloomington has been one collective injury. He’s had every season ended with an injury, with this one being the first that he’ll actually come back to the court, after suffering it in-season.

For his career, Creek, a 6-5 guard swingman who by all means was living up to the hype when he came out of Hargrave Military Academy four years ago, is averaging 9.4 points in 40 games with 25 starts. He’s made the most of his time on the court when he’s been healthy enough to be on it.

I’ll never hold injuries — on the court, anyway — against a player. Giving effort and having your body betray you or an accident put you out isn’t something a player can control most of the time. But it’s really hard to see what Creek will do when he comes back, which, if Fischer is right, will be when the Hoosiers face home games against Minnesota and Wisconsin, consecutively. So if anything, Creek helps the depth.

But, in honor of this being the first time Creek has returned from an injury in a season, let’s look at what Creek could bring that, either Indiana needs or will want more of as they get deeper and deeper into conference play.

Scoring

As a freshman in 2009-10, Creek averaged 16.5 points through the team’s first 12 games, including 31 points against Kentucky. He averaged 8.3 points the next season before that season-ending injury. Then 3.0 points through 10 games this season. I’m going to go out on a whim and predict Creek becomes the Hoosiers fourth scoring option behind Zeller, Oladipo, Watford and Sheehey, edging out Hulls. It may take a week or two, but I could see Creek averaging 10-11 points per game especially on a team that is rife with scorers. And teams doubting his ability with so many injuries.

Experience

Though it feels like we’ve barely been able to see him on the court, Creek has played 40 games and started 25 in his career. He came off the bench for all 10 so far this season, clocking 11.3 minutes per game, but being totally healthy, Creek will be invaluable as a guy on the court in late-game situations. He’s been there and he can assist the elders like Sheehey, Hulls and Watford in settling the team in key situations. In the most talented conference in college basketball, that’s huge.

An additional deep threat

Maurice Creek, shooter? He can hit the outside shot with regularity. Creek was 7-for-20 from three-point range before injury this season. For his career, Creek is 63-for-171, a 36.8-percent clip. Hulls will like that help and in games agaisnt Michigan, he can — try, at least — to keep up with Nik Stauskas.

Good depth

Never be fooled. There’s a difference between “depth” and “good depth”. Pretty simple. Talent separates the two. Creek’s blend of experience, athleticism and talent adds, at the very least, a solid bench threat that coach Tom Crean can rely on when the games get tight.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.