Elston’s bumpy ride

  • 03/03/2013 3:50 pm in

121912aiAn off-the-court leader

Elston had every reason to give it up. It just hadn’t worked out for him, and even if he did rehab tirelessly to recover, there was little chance he would play a significant role on the nation’s No. 1 team.

But Elston’s teammates and coaches didn’t give him that option. Crean, who now has a much better relationship with Elston than he did three years ago, regularly talked to Elston during his rehab about the important role he could still play on this team. He couldn’t do some of the things he’d like to on the court, but Elston has been in the program for four years. He can still be a leader. Crean pointed that out to him.

“Sometimes you hope, and then sometimes you know they’re gonna be successful when they leave,” Crean said. “And Derek’s going to be extremely successful. But there’s still a lot left for him to get in this year.”

Crean gave Elston the authority to stop practice and make comments about things he saw on the court. Elston started to work even more with freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin and Jeremy Hollowell to help bring them along. Even though he wasn’t on the court, he still had an impact.

If you would have told Elston as a freshman he’d be given the authority of a coach in just a few short years, he may have laughed.

“No, I wouldn’t have believed you at all,” Elston said. “Me, freshman year, I would have probably just kept quiet and let whoever was talking to me, no matter what they were saying, I would have gone along with it. But this year, I’ve had a say in everything. Whether I’m right, whether I’m wrong, I’m gonna try to get my point across.”

Elston’s teammates stood by his side, too. Guard Maurice Creek, who came in with Elston and underwent three major surgeries in 22 months, often talked to Elston during his rehab process. Creek wasn’t going to let him quit.

“Maurice was one of the main guys who would talk to me every day,” Elston said. “He kept saying, ‘You saw what I went through.’ And mine obviously wasn’t near what he had to deal with.”

Watford also saw what his classmate was going through, and he wanted to do something to help him feel better. Elston couldn’t be out on the court for the season opener against Bryant in November, so Watford decided to wear Elston’s No. 32 jersey in honor of his injured teammate.

“That’s like my brother,” Watford said. “Any time you go into battle with somebody for so many years, you’ve been in the hole with somebody for so many years and they can’t experience the fruits of the labor, you kinda wanna make it easier for them to deal with. I can’t play for him, I can’t do that, but I just wanted to show him some love and do that for him.”

“That was unbelievable,” Elston added. “The fact that Christian came up and asked me, I never would have thought to go to Christian. He came up to me and knew that was one of those uplifting things that he thought I needed. It definitely was.”

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  • spongebob

    The Sponge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • spongebob

    The Sponge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • IU Bob 1981

    “We were the butt of every joke”, but the joke is on all of them now.

  • Florida Hoosier Girl

    Thanks for writing this and letting us get a closer look at Derek! Hope he comes up big Tuesday night against Ohio State.

  • HoosierPete

    Fantastic story. Every successful team needs a player and a leader like Elston. And he’s playing important minutes now and when IU hangs banner No. 6, Elston will be a big reason why.

  • every Champ has an unexpected hero off the bench

  • Tim in DC

    Another great article. I have a good feeling that Elston is going to be a major reason for the wonderful Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments that Indiana is getting ready to win. This is our year.

  • jermhoosierfan

    It is great to see how that class withstood the storm of those first 2 years to see how they helped get IU back on track. I can see Derek being a prankster.

  • sghoosier

    Thanks Justin. We need to be reminded that the struggles that this generation of IU players had undergone is the journey of life in itself. You also personify them instead of us looking at them as images on TV or basketball players on the court. Cheers!

  • kevgood

    Elston has played like a man in the last two games. We really need that if we want to win a championship.

  • This class will forever be remembered by Indiana basketball fans. This class is something special filled with great guys both on and off the court. There are not many people who could deal with what they had to through the first two years, and I am glad they are finally being rewarded.

  • I want to share a story about Elston that my friend told me:

    My friends friend works at a bank here in Bloomington and not too long ago Derek came in. He was being helped by an older lady at the desk and she kept complimenting him on what a great game he had, and what a great man he is. She eventually said that she wished she could give him a hug. Derek then told here that if she came around from the counter he would meet her half way. She came around and Derek walked over to her and gave her a giant hug! Her day was made.

    This shows how great of a guy Derek is. Crean has done a great job with not only Elston, but the entire team. This is a great team, and I can’t wait to see what they can do in March.

  • marcusgresham

    He’s just started to show a few moves that indicate he’s all the way back (and confident) with his knee–that reverse lay-up in the picture is an example. If he just gets his shooting stroke back he’s going to be a real factor.

  • Great story! Let’s hope his confidence with that outside shot returns Tuesday! Derek is a true Hoosier!

  • Great story! Let’s hope his confidence with that outside shot returns Tuesday! Derek is a true Hoosier!

  • WisconHoosier

    “But no one left for Butler.”

    This is why this is my favorite recruiting class. They didn’t leave, when most others would have. They didn’t quit.

    If there had been a bunch of transfers, Crean would have lost credibility. No Zeller. No Yogi. The possibilities get scary from there, so I’ll just stop thinking about them.

    Great article. Great IU players. My respect to them, and their parents.

  • Miamihoosier

    This article is SI good, you know, national sports magazine piece good. It feels awesome that our team has far and away the best dedicated website in college basketball. I’ve checked, I mean nothing even comes close. Thanks, Alex, Justin, everybody involved….. As for Derek, I think most all of us have noticed something different in his play the last few games. The assertiveness with which he’s making his moves to the bucket, the lift he’s gotten on a couple of dunks, it’s the most athleticism I’ve seen him display his whole career. He could be a huge piece for us in the home stretch, because outside the Illinois game, the other 3 losses we got beat up on the inside….we needed one more big to give us quality minutes….if he’s that guy, our chances just got that much better to bring it all home….

  • Elston will always be the guy from Purdue country who chose IU. Now that style.

  • My sister works at one of the large tanning salons in Btown, and Derek is a pretty frequent customer. She has commented several times on how polite and friendly he is every time he comes in. He takes time to talk to her and ask her how things are going with class and whatnot. Seems like a genuinely good guy, and I’m glad to see him having success on the court again.

  • Smokey15

    Excellent work Justin

  • Scott Ferderber

    The ’09 class was the light at the end of the tunnel and will forever be a special group. Their light shines brightly today and deservedly so.

  • DElstonsD

    Watch the hand!

  • DElstonsD

    Watch the hand!

  • SCHoosier

    A great read..thanks Justin. I suspect DE and his fellow seniors are feeling damn well vindicated today with a share of the B-10 title. What was unthinkable as freshmen has become a reality for the group as seniors. Let’s really make it special beating by puttin’ a whippin’ on OSU Tuesday. Don’t lose the edge guys.

  • Benhyoung14

    I can’t think of a better role player over the last few years than elston. I had no idea that him and CTC were at odds at times, but I’m glad he stayed.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Great point that I would like to add on not only do we have a great site that was created by one of the best , if not the best, but the posters are a far superior fan base due to their passion….but the knowledge of past and present is far greater as well. I have learned more from this site about IU basketball than any other source….so yes Thank You everyone involved.

  • marcusgresham

    Wait a second…I was always told Coach Crean is just a rah-rah guy who never gets on guys. Just claps his hands when things aren’t going well. You mean he actually YELLS at guys? Well, that just can’t be.

  • SCHoosier

    I think he’s got a stroke..guards aren’t really looking for him. DE has been clapping his hands asking for the ball..but its going elsewhere.

  • VanPastorMan

    I love it that Elston has kept at it and not quit. It will help him in life, because things don’t always work out the way we want. We’ve got to keep at it.

  • VanPastorMan

    I love it that Elston has kept at it and not quit. It will help him in life, because things don’t always work out the way we want. We’ve got to keep at it.