Bloomington – Indiana fans won't see the same Maurice Creek when he returns to the court next season.
It's not that his season-ending knee injury 2 ½ months ago will keep him from approaching the 16.4 points/game he was producing before he was hurt or prevent him from rivaling the 44.8 percent success rate from behind the 3-point arc. There's always a concern on that front, but Hoosier fans can count on seeing a more physically imposing Creek next October.
While the left knee injury suffered against Bryant had Creek on crutches early on and off the court ever since, it hasn't kept him out of the weight room. He said he's now able to bench 205 pounds six times, which isn't too bad for a player who admits he couldn't get 185 pounds up once when he first arrived on the Bloomington campus last summer.
"It's amazing how time goes by and you can do more," said Creek.
He's also added about five pounds to his frame since originally doing down in the Dec. 28 game. Things should only improve from here on out, as Creek says he thinks he's on pace to be ready to return to scrimmaging in June or July.
"I'm looking to push forward earlier than that, but you to be responsible and smart with it," Creek said.
He knows he has to be wise with his approach because of the severity of the injury. While the full extent of the injury hasn't been disclosed by IU officials per student privacy laws, replays made it clear that he had fractured his patella (knee cap) when he landed awkwardly in the first half of IU's 90-42 win over Bryant.
Creek said he knew the injury was serious when he crumpled to the ground, and he realized his season was over seconds later.
"When I went to the ground I knew something was wrong, but then I tried to get back up I fell right back down," Creek said. "That's when I knew it was over."
That led to some tough times Creek, who was leading not only the Hoosiers in scoring at the time, but also the nation among freshmen. But he said the strength of his cousin – who was at the game when the injury occurred – along with the IU coaching staff and players helped him from getting down about his situation.
He's also remained as involved as possible with what the Hoosiers are doing, generally carrying a clipboard during IU games and charting various statistics for the staff. Sometimes it might be how many defensive stops his teammates are able to get in a row and others it could be how they're doing on the offensive glass. But the IU staff has done what it can to keep Creek as involved as possible during his time away from the game.
"It keeps me in tact with the team," Creek said. "It's better to do that than just stay on the backside (of the bench). It's a privilege to do something like that."
It might be a way to stay involved and contribute, but Creek also knows his greatest contributions will come when he's able to get back on the floor. Now off crutches, he's able to do a variety of things on the court that don't involve running, including shooting during and after practice.
He's managed to show that his time away from the game hasn't hurt his shooting stroke. Before IU's regular-season ending win against Northwestern, IU assistant coach Bennie Selzer connected on 13 consecutive 3-pointers at practice in a head-to-head competition with Creek. Creek did more than answer the challenge.
"He hit 13 straight and said I couldn't beat it and I happened to hit 31 straight 3s. I had to show him who was boss," Creek said with a smile.
Creek is looking forward to the day when his victories won't be in shooting competitions with members of the IU staff but against many of the Big Ten teams that he was unable to go up against this winter following the injury. It's been a long wait, but one that will end soon enough.
"Being to practice, playing again, it's going to feel good," Creek said. "It's going to feel good the next time I got out there."
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