Tough injury for Hoosiers is tougher for Creek

  • 01/17/2011 9:49 pm in

(Photo credit: Jamie Owens)

Maurice Creek is injured again.

They are the words nobody remotely interested in Indiana basketball and its success wanted to hear ever, and certainly not this season.

Indeed, it was a moment of slight irony that this stress fracture, to Creek’s right patella (kneecap), came in close to the same way, in the same place, as they full fracture to his left patella last season, coming down awkwardly after a layup. And so, here we are again, circling around a major injury announcement involving a player that, as much as any, has become the face of Indiana.

It’s hard, unlike the last time, to feel like this development is even as bad for Indiana as it is for Creek.

Look, there’s the obvious argument that Creek wasn’t so pivotal a player this year as last, primarily because he’s not scoring so much as he was (which he’s not).

Creek is averaging 8.3 points per game — just one-tenth of a percentage point more than half of his scoring average through 12 games last season — on 38.9 percent shooting. In six more games this season to date, he’s attempted as many field goals (131) this year as he did over those 12 games last season. And he’s been in and out of the starting lineup recently.

In fairness to Creek, he still helps Indiana in ways others could not, particularly with ball handling, and Crean said the news of his injury was saddening, because the coach thought his sophomore shooting guard might soon turn a corner offensively.

“It just felt like it was really, really close to breaking for him,” Crean said at his radio show Monday night, according to Herald-Times beat writer Dustin Dopirak, who live-tweeted from the event.

But it’s hard to see how it hurts anyone more than it hurts Creek himself.

Here was a player Indiana has not had in some time. Creek had swagger.

Not the kind that drives one to spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a mirror, or convinces a person he or she is just generally incredible.

This was a better brand, a finer vintage if you will. Coaches will rave about a player’s “will to win” or “competitive fire.” They’re generally the same thing — an overall attitude that permeates every action, every moment spent chasing as much success as one can possibly get their hands on.

Creek didn’t care who he faced or what the odds, he had a fire that was only stoked by winning. It’s rare to find someone as skilled and as driven as Creek, and it was easy to envision three or four years of Creek as the posterchild of Indiana basketball.

Now, that’s all up in the air. Creek lost more than half a season to an injury he had yet to have been fully recovered from. Crean alluded to the moments where we’ve seen the old Maurice Creek, slashing across the lane, driving with confidence and, once or twice, finding his once-deadly 3-point shot.

All evidence suggested Creek worked hard in his rehabilitation too, pushing himself as much as he could to get back with as much swiftness and strength as possible. Returns this year have been mixed, but it’s generally acknowledged that his was a catastrophic injury, one that would need perhaps more than one year to heal.

The problem is, things aren’t nearly so cut-and-dry now.

Creek is out “indefinitely,” which is hard to quantify with 13 games plus the Big Ten Tournament and perhaps postseason play left on the schedule. It’s in his other knee, which could either be a good thing (no re-aggravation) or symptomatic of a larger problem.

It also leaves Creek in the unenviable position of having to face yet another frustrating period of rest and mending, one whose duration is apparently murky at best.

But there’s also a greater issue at stake here. Twelve months ago, Indiana basketball, as much as it could have been at the time, was settled. Even with Creek’s injury, there was plenty of time for him to rehabilitate, recover and reassert himself as the clear front man for a team and a program as it moved into the next phase of Tom Crean’s rebuilding process. As this season played out, and it became clear Creek’s renaissance would not be so smooth, doubt became cast on that aforementioned scenario.

This injury defeats it altogether.

There’s no blueprint moving forward from now. Is Maurice Creek ever going to be the high-scoring, program-turning player he once resembled? There’s no way to know. Are these injuries independent, or linked by some sort of greater physical issue? That’s something only an orthopedist, and more importantly time, can answer.

But time is the one thing Creek does not have. If this injury requires an extended layoff and rehabilitation, then he will have exhausted two years of eligibility for 30 total games. When he comes back, he will for a second time have to ingratiate himself with a team that has had to, by necessity, learn to live without him.

Next year, Cody Zeller comes to Indiana. The year after that, he’ll be joined by a bevy of heralded recruits, a list that’s long and could possibly get longer.

Indiana will be entering a new generation, one many believe will eventually vault the program back to its former glory.

As rough as this season has been for him, it was still fairly easy to see Creek in that future.

Now, no one can be sure.

Filed to:

  • MillaRed

    I love the guys over at The Scoop but sorry that was pretty funny.

  • I doubt it. Surgery is for a displaced fracture and this one is not displaced. He will need an immobilizer and then rehab – and this whole process will take a lot longer than 6 wks – closer to 6 months to a year. The rehab has to make it stronger than it was to prevent this from happening again. If he is ready – physically and psychologically – next year I would be happy. This year has limited potential as it is. Next year with Zeller, CWat, and Mo as the core would be pretty exciting especially when you consider the upside of VO, the senior leadership of VJ, and improving Shehey and Elston. Add a gutsy guard with a few yrs experience – Hulls and you have a prescription for success….

  • Diesel

    Agreed. I’ve said this before on here. Mo’s leg was at it’s strongest during game 1. The season tears your body down and just playing ball will not make your leg stronger. The guys do lift in-season for maintenance of strength. Playing through it was not going to get him further along in the recovery process physically. The hindsight angle definitely suggests a redshirt this season would have been best for Mo, but I do think he’ll be ready to go next season just fine.

  • Diesel

    Clarification: If it is just a stress fracture as IU says, my opinion is that……

  • Diesel

    For some reason I was thinking the cutoff for Mo last season was 7 games and he played in 9…..need some PhD math here to help us out.

  • Jerry – I am not so sure that the limp would have prevented me from asking him to play. He was running better with each game and started driving the lane and playing some D. He was not at 100% but there was only one way to get there – play! I would have loved to see him do well this season and then lead us to a couple of upset wins in the B10 tourney – but that is not going to happen.

    I also had a knee injury ski jumping, and when I came to IU a few of my teammates called me PINTO (my gait was more of a gallop) because it was hard to run. I played hard and worked it out but it took a good 1-2 years. No one could have told me to sit out….but again I played baseball…Creek had some decent ortho boys there – Afield for one – and he played at IU for RMK, and his advice to Mo is what counts.

  • Diesel

    C’mon base, I know what surgery is for and have repeatedly posted that if the injury is as IU has reported it to be, he will NOT need surgery. I also stated the time frame of 4-6 weeks of rest for bony healing, and did not give a recovery process because the injury is going to end his season.

  • Anonymous

    the blessing in disguise part is the best way to look at it – I’m hoping this injury isn’t nearly as bad as the first so hopefully the extended time he needs to take for this one will help him recover much more from the first. He just might be as explosive at the beginning of next season as he was his freshman year – I’m hoping and praying so. Hang in there Mo – we’re all behind you.

  • Anonymous

    that says a lot to me – and like Mo’s injury, it puts sports in a much needed perspective. As fanatical as we are with wins and losses, it’s much more about the people that play and work hard to win for themselves and for their fans. These are great kids and I can say I am proud of them.

  • Anonymous

    It’d be nice if they look at it in two seasons – a certain percentage of the two. Sure he didn’t qualify last year at the time so that doesn’t count, but 2 in a row seeing insignificant playing time shouldn’t count against you twice – IMO. Not sure if the games in the two seasons even add up to one.

  • Diesel

    There is a very nice write up on this over at the Scoop now and I think it’s a pretty accurate picture of the process moving forward.

  • Diesel

    Well, Dustin just redeemed himself. Really nice explanation of the injury and recovery process over on the Scoop.

  • cooper

    Because a medical staff has never got it wrong or brought a player back too soon. you must not watch many other sports such as concussions in football. Keep dreaming a medical staff is truly independent. Do you know what causes stress fractures? Clearly not. They are caused by increasing activity too rapidly and an increase in physical stress before being ready. Ding ding ding. Now explain how a full year of recovering and gaining strength wouldn’t help?

    it was plan as day to see he was favoring the other knee all season long. That can lead to other injuries which is a medical fact.

    You don’t think it’s possible there was pressure to get him back early? Nor did I say they did anything wrong only it’s something to question

  • cooper

    Because a medical staff has never got it wrong or brought a player back too soon. you must not watch many other sports such as concussions in football. Keep dreaming a medical staff is truly independent. Do you know what causes stress fractures? Clearly not. They are caused by increasing activity too rapidly and an increase in physical stress before being ready. Ding ding ding. Now explain how a full year of recovering and gaining strength wouldn’t help?

    it was plan as day to see he was favoring the other knee all season long. That can lead to other injuries which is a medical fact.

    You don’t think it’s possible there was pressure to get him back early? Nor did I say they did anything wrong only it’s something to question

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Well, that sucks. everybody was wrong and he needed surgery!!! WOW! I hope the surgery is just a fusing or something of the bone and they think it will make it stronger so he doesn’t fracture it in the future!

  • Gustin

    During ESPN’s coverage of the Illini Vs MSU game, it was noted that Mo is scheduled for surgery on Thursday. Wishing you all the best Mo and a speedy recovery…

  • Anonymous

    30% is the new rule. Used to be 20% until a couple years ago. Last year Creek was injuried in, what, the 12th game?

  • Diesel – I still smell your fums….the scoop article is interesting but obviously not correct. Most physicians I know would not speculate speciffically about a patient without seeing the pt or at least reviewing some data. My speculation (see above) was simply based on my interpretation of UPTODATE a medical reference source about this type of injury in general. I am not an expert in these injuries but my daughter had a patellar fracture and I have conferred with my orthopedic collegues on numerous occasions about this.

    The orthopedic opinion and the scoop reference (on a public forum about a specific player) despite his disclaimers is probably misplaced. An expert in this area should only comment about an injury if he has some concrete data available….unless he wants to join dr phil….

    I would trust Creeks treating orhopedic surgeon or someone like Steve Ahfield the orthopedic surgeon for the team.

  • marcusgresham

    Ah, my bad, I think that is correct. Didn’t know it went up to 30%, though. That seems unusual–the NCAA doing something to benefit athletes.

  • Proud Cubs/Cowboys/IU Fan

    I know this is off topic, but I am going to try to start an IU blog and hopefully succeed. Here’s the link if you wanna check it out. http://iubasketballinandout.blogspot.com/

  • Diesel

    Base – if you read any sports page you’ll see this kind of thing all the time. Dr Ahfeld or however is doing Mo’s surgery tomorrow obviously cannot comment on this and so newspapers will confer with experts in the field. For instance, if you read about a Colts player in the Star the physcian commenting will always be from OrthoIndy or St V’s (nonexperts according to your post) because the team docs from Methodist Sports cannot comment on it. Although your Dr Phil line was funny, it does not stand up.

    The patella stress fracture is a rare bird, hopefully your lit review showed this to be true. I have worked with patients who have had patella fractures with screw and wire fixation as well as patella stress fractures, so that is where my comments come from.

    The most recent and notable case was Blake Griffin who was reported to have a stress fracture last season. The reports from team physicians were that he was to miss 6 weeks, similar to the report from the Scoop. For those not familiar, he ended up having surgery as there ended up being an issue with the patella tendon and a bony fragment. Obviously his recovery was pretty good, but this was not the same kind of surgery Mo had last season nor do we know what he will have done tomorrow.

  • Diesel

    Base – if you read any sports page you’ll see this kind of thing all the time. Dr Ahfeld or however is doing Mo’s surgery tomorrow obviously cannot comment on this and so newspapers will confer with experts in the field. For instance, if you read about a Colts player in the Star the physcian commenting will always be from OrthoIndy or St V’s (nonexperts according to your post) because the team docs from Methodist Sports cannot comment on it. Although your Dr Phil line was funny, it does not stand up.

    The patella stress fracture is a rare bird, hopefully your lit review showed this to be true. I have worked with patients who have had patella fractures with screw and wire fixation as well as patella stress fractures, so that is where my comments come from.

    The most recent and notable case was Blake Griffin who was reported to have a stress fracture last season. The reports from team physicians were that he was to miss 6 weeks, similar to the report from the Scoop. For those not familiar, he ended up having surgery as there ended up being an issue with the patella tendon and a bony fragment. Obviously his recovery was pretty good, but this was not the same kind of surgery Mo had last season nor do we know what he will have done tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    it’s understandable, it only change in ’07 or ’08