Feel sorry for himself? Maurice Creek has no time for such nonsense. He has knee surgery to undergo (set for this afternoon), rehab work to complete and a team to help inspire.
In fact, it’s already started.
Once Creek and trainer Tim Garl broke the news to the players that the stress fracture to Creek’s right patella (kneecap) would require season-ending surgery, he went from player to motivator. The goal -- get the Hoosiers to continue the form that helped them beat Michigan last Saturday.
“We need to play strong and stay together,” Creek said. “We have to play these games like they’re our last games. You never know what can happen. Unfortunately another injury has happened to me. But we can play with the energy and fire we played with in the Michigan game. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Tonight might not be the best time to test that. IU plays at Wisconsin, which is almost invincible at the Kohl Center. But for a moment that takes second billing to Creek’s latest bit of bad luck.
Here’s a flash from Crean -- this latest injury will not, repeat, will not, rob Creek of his NBA potential.
“Nobody feels he won’t be able to come back,” he said. “I’ve challenged everybody make sure his right leg can stay longer.”
Crean said he believes that if Creek hadn’t gotten hurt last season (he was the nation’s top freshman scorer at 16.4 points) or this year, he would likely have been positioning himself to leave after this season for the NBA.
That won’t happen now, but it might some day.
“My desire is still there,” Creek said. “That’s my goal, to get to the next level. Whatever it takes, that’s what I’m going to do.”
For now, that’s a back-burner issue. The important thing is getting Creek back to full health.
“With surgery and rehab we know we have to do everything we can to get him back that much quicker than before, mentally and no just physically,” Crean said. “He’s prepared to have surgery and then the hard part will kick in. We’ll help every step of the way.”
Crean was adamant that this injury was less severe than last year.
“It’s not the same severity,” he said. “The MRIs are completely different. The injury is completely different. The knee didn’t start to swell until Sunday afternoon. It’s not close to what he had to deal with before.”
Last year’s fractured kneecap required totally immobilization that resulted in severe muscle atrophy. Creek struggled with the grueling rehabilitation and the nagging doubt that he’d re-injure the knee. Crean said they’d been dealing with that fear issue, which is why he held a Friday night extra session for Creek.
“It was like, we’re going to bulldoze this. No more worrying about things. We’ve got to get this guy back. He has so much talent. We have to push him through this. He was shooting at such a high level. To me it was like, it was right there.”
And then it wasn’t.
Some have suggested that Creek should have been redshirted or shouldn’t have been put back into the Michigan game, even if it was only for a few seconds.
But that’s not what the facts warranted. Creek’s left knee was healthy, although loss of leg strength remained a problem. He seemed fine. There was no way to foresee this injury.
“We have an incredible medical team,” Crean said. “I don’t second guess a thing.”
That’s a moot point for Creek.
“I’m trying to get both knees strong. I want to be 100 percent in both legs. I’ve got trainers to do that. I’ve got a lot of time ahead of me.”