BLOOMINGTON -– Maurice Creek flashes a light-up-Assembly Hall smile. He is asked about his shot, the one that once made him the nation's top freshman basketball scorer on a NBA fast track, the one that hasn't been publicly seen in nearly two years.
“The shot is good, man,” he says. “My leg is broke, not my arms.”
In fact, Creek says his leg is fine, his surgically repaired Achilles tendon is good, his surgically repaired knees are fine. He insists he is full go, and that entering Friday night's official opening of practice he feels like himself after three surgeries in less than two years.
“There are some things I need to improve on,” he says, “but that's an everyday thing. I take it day by day. I do what I've got to do. Everybody has something to improve on. When I figure out what I need to improve on, I try to improve that.
“I feel like everything's there. I feel like my movement's there. Defensively, I can still get better on that. Offensively, I can move, drive, slash, shoot. Everything is there.”
And then, as if to emphasize that point, Creek posts on his Twitter account that he has run 3.2 miles in 26 minutes, basically an eight-minute-a-mile pace. He uses the hashtag, #Imback.
“I'm getting stronger every day,” he says. “I'm doing my rehab stuff. I'm going in the weight room. I'm getting shots with the guys and practicing. I'm getting everything done so I can be strong.”
Do not feel sorry for this Indiana guard because he doesn't feel sorry for himself. Even if he wanted to, coach Tom Crean, trainer Tim Garl and the rest of the coaches and players won't let him.
“The guys are encouraging me; the coaches are encouraging me to keep my head squared away every day.
“To have strength and do what I'm doing now is a blessing. Some people would try to quit on it, but these guys never quit on me. They make me stronger every day. They never let me slip.
“My time will come. I think this will be my time.”
Creek was averaging 16.4 points when he fractured his left knee as a freshman in 2009. He was averaging 8.3 points a year later when he fractured his right knee. He was set to return the following season when the Achilles tendon went in a fall in his apartment.
Does he dwell on wondering when the next disaster will occur?
“No. Whatever happens, happens. It's a way of life. You can't think about it. That's exactly when you get hurt, so I try to play and let it run its course.”
Creek and teammate Victor Oladipo are both from Maryland. Oladipo says he's watched Creek play since “I was about 9 years old. To finally see the man come back is amazing.
“He's like my brother. He's been through so much. He hasn't played in so long. He loves the game. He eats and sleeps it like we all do.
“He can help us a lot. He can still shoot. Nothing has changed. He'll play some significant minutes. I know he'll be ready.”
Crean is convinced Creek would be in the NBA now if he had stayed healthy. He said during last month's public talk to IU students that he has slowed Creek's return “because I don't want him to go through that again.”
“He's getting better. He's not where he was, and he might not get to that. He has to get a lot stronger. He's got to keep getting that (tough-minded) mindset. His legs are not where they need to be, but it's great to watch his confidence.”
Crean added that Creek will have some rough stretches on the court and “I have to live with that. I love the guy.”
When Creek last played, IU was a patsy. Now, it's a national title contender.
“It feels great,” he says. “I remember the dark days. Now I see the guys bringing the program back and I get to join that. Hopefully I do what I need to do to contribute.”