Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Zeek and Creek Show Part 1: Mo Creek, Mo Problems (and other thoughts)

by Giovanni Scarcella

…For the rest of the A10, that is. Plus, random thoughts from this week.

Indiana transfer and DC-area native Maurice Creek has so far proven himself a huge addition to the team. Last season, the Colonials made 27.9% of their three-point attempts, one of the worst marks in all of college basketball. With so much focus dedicated to Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood in the paint, something had to give along the perimeter. Yet the team only attempted ten threes per game (second lowest in the NCAA) and made those perimeter shots at the aforementioned low rate. The team’s best three-point shooter, Dwayne Smith, was set to graduate in 2013, and Nemanja Mikic, recruited for his sharpshooting, posted a career low three point percentage. Simply, the team needed shooters if it wanted to compete in the coming season.

With the recent commemoration of what would have been the fiftieth birthday of Len Bias, we are reminded that the great sports stories are highlighted by what could have been, as much as they are by what occurred. In those endless barbershop and barstool discussions, for every tale told of some larger-than-life accomplishment, there is an equally interesting but more somber one told of a different kind of a player. A player with limitless potential who never reached his peak. A player who suffered adversity but unfortunately succumbed to it. For some, like Len Bias, one fatal mistake ended their careers. After all, sports at the professional level are filled with athletes who were children just a few years earlier. That’s what kids do. They make mistakes. For others, they just don’t “get it.” They get their paycheck and that’s the end of it. That’s fine. That’s their choice, but we still dislike seeing it. For others still, injuries hamper and in some cases ultimately end what would have been a productive and successful career. Maurice Creek is determined to avoid that final scenario.

A highly ranked prospect out of the Hargrave Military Academy, Creek started as a freshman for Indiana. He led the country in scoring through his first nine games. He dropped 31 points against Kentucky. These are the early makings of a successful college and professional career. However, the sports gods had other plans. That’s a weird phrase when you think about it, especially since it is so common. But how else do we explain misfortune? Injuries are both unfair and uncontrollable. Genetic predisposition may have something to do with it, but by and large players are struck with injury for almost inexplicable reasons: they landed weirdly, they collided by accident, they hurt themselves in a typical workout. Creek suffered three major injuries in twenty-two months. With his eligibility at Indiana expired, Creek looked local to continue his college career. George Washington couldn’t be happier to have him.

Through the first four games of the season, Creek is leading the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game and shooting 62.5% from three. He has already cemented himself as the best perimeter shooter in the A10 conference. In fact, Creek is ranked 12th in 3P% in the country among those attempting four or more threes per game (he’s averaging six). I could keep changing the criteria and inflate his already impressive numbers, but four attempts per game is a solid benchmark in determining a three-point specialist, and it still accounts for plenty of talented players such as Jabari Parker. Even more importantly, his presence on the outside spreads the floor. Kevin Larsen has been one of the most efficient offensive players in the A10. Mikic has seen a return to form. In Saturday’s game against a tough Manhattan team, the Zeek and Creek Show dragged GW to victory.

The season is only three games young, but there’s plenty to be excited about. Not only are the Colonials undefeated, but their offense looks completely revitalized to complement its already solid defense. With an absolutely dominant home victory over Delaware State, the Colonials are set to face their toughest test so far at the Wooden Legacy Tournament. The play of Maurice Creek will help set the tone for a possible tournament berth in March. Already, GW has received a vote in the Top 25 poll. It’s not much, but it’s a start. How will it finish? Regardless, Creek has been talked about and will continue to be the topic of those passionate sports arguments. Here at GW, though, he has the chance to change the conversation.

Random Thoughts

-Free Throw shooting is going to be especially important for this team going forward. Against Manhattan we saw a bit of a regression to last year’s numbers. Zeek gets fouled a lot, and it will be interesting going forward to see how his shooting from the stripe affects the team.

-Larsen just seems like a more patient player this season. He functions really well within the flow of the game. Takes a quick hook shot from the post. Has a good mid-range shot. Finds the open man. Just pleasant to watch.

-The Colonials run a ton of different looks on defense. Against Delaware State, not exactly top competition, they played some man, 1-3-1 zone, 2-3 zone, and a little full court press until it started to backfire on them a bit. The rotations looked sharp and the defense forced a lot of long two’s on Tuesday in addition to creating seventeen turnovers and eleven steals.

-At one point in the second half, Zeek almost pulled a Javale McGee (in a good way), nearly snatching a jump shot in midair. Add in that nasty alley-oop from Maurice Creek and the big fella had another great night.

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