There is a statistical symmetry to Maurice Creek's college basketball odyssey. As a freshman at Indiana in 2009--10, the 6'5" guard averaged 16.4 points per game while shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc; as a fifth-year newcomer at George Washington, Creek is averaging 15.7 points while connecting on 46.4% of his threes. "The only thing that's different about it now is that I'm older," says the 23-year-old Creek, who shrugs off the notion that a series of severe injuries that forced him to miss 62 games (and average just 4.6 points) in his three other seasons in Bloomington has altered his playing style. His attitude is: "Things happened."
What happened first was this: Just over two weeks after he had lit up No. 4 Kentucky and its five future first-round NBA draft picks for 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting, Creek's freshman season ended when he fractured his left kneecap during a blowout of Bryant University. He returned for an up-and-down 18 games as a sophomore before a stress fracture in his right knee cut that season short, in January. In October 2011 he slipped in the stairwell at his apartment complex and tore his left Achilles tendon, forcing him to miss that whole season. Last winter Creek lost another month with a right foot injury, then found there was little room for him in Indiana's loaded rotation; he played just 186 minutes last season.
Yet rather than call it a disappointing career, Creek—a general studies degree in hand—took advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer exception and enrolled at GW. (He could play immediately at another school if he pursued a graduate degree in a discipline Indiana did not offer; he's on track to receive a certificate in leadership development this spring.) The Colonials had five starters coming back—four would-be sophomores—from a team that finished 13--17 last season. What they lacked were veterans and outside shooters. "Just look at our roster," coach Mike Lonergan told the native of Oxon Hill, Md., last spring. "What we need is what you can bring to the table."
Finally 100% and playing alongside breakout sophomore guard Kethan Savage (13.9 points per game) and 6'9" senior forward Isaiah Armwood (13.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks), a transfer from Villanova, Creek's comeback has rejuvenated his new program. GW is 9--1 with wins over Maryland, Miami, and No. 20 Creighton, its best start in eight years. After finishing 10th or worse in the 13-team Atlantic 10 five of the last six years, George Washington was picked to finish 10th this season as well. But now the Colonials can join the top tier of a conference in which favorites VCU and La Salle appear vulnerable. Says Lonergan of Creek, "He's been just what the doctor ordered."
In GW's Dec. 8 win over Maryland, Creek wrote the prescription himself. During a timeout with eight seconds left and the score tied at 75, Lonergan had planned to draw up a play for sophomore guard Joe McDonald. But in the huddle, Creek insisted on getting the ball. "It was respectful, it was confident," says Lonergan. "And I was like, You know what? I like that." The Colonials inbounded to Creek, who dribbled the ball past half-court, sized up his defender, then drove in and drained an 18-foot step-back jumper for the victory. "That's what I dreamed of since I was younger," Creek says. "Getting that last shot."
And his last shot at college hoops may prove to be his best.
Creek shrugs off the notion that severe injuries altered his playing style. "Things happened," he says.
CHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI