BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's always interesting to watch how the rabid Indiana fan base reacts down the road to former Hoosiers who transfer to another school. The emotions range from "once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier'' to "he's a traitor, he's a bum, good riddance.''
The vitriol and nastiness I heard this spring when Damezi Anderson and Justin Smith transferred from Indiana was off the charts. It wasn't unanimous, of course, but the majority of people kept telling me they didn't care where they transferred to, and that they wouldn't care what they did at their next stops, Loyola and Arkansas, respectively.
But two former Hoosiers who definitely break that mold are Remy Abell and Maurice Creek. These two had some great moments in Bloomington, but chose to end their careers elsewhere, Abell at Xavier and Creek at George Washington.
But over the years, Indiana fans have continued to show them both a lot of love, partly because their exits from Bloomington were understandable and, because of their personalities, these two were easy to embrace.
That love has been ramped up this week in a big way, because Abell and Creek are teammates on Sideline Cancer, a team that's pulled off two upsets already and is now just three wins away from taking the $1 million winner-take-all tournament.
In Tuesday's win, Abell scored 17 points and hit the game-ending three-pointer in the 76-66 win over Team Challenge ALS. Creek added 13, and the paired combined to score ALL 10 of their team's points during the Elam Ending portion of the game.
The TBT is a 24-team, single-elimination tournament being held in Columbus, Ohio under very strict COVID-19 requirements. Everyone was tested before they arrived — there were 31 positive results out of 1,400 tests and several players and even one entire team were sent home.
Players have their bags packed when the arrive at the practically empty Nationwide Arena. If they lose, they head straight home.
If they win, like Abell and Creek did, they stick around.
The entire field was seeded, and Sideline Cancer was the No. 22 seed out of 24 teams. So both wins thus far have been considered big upsets. Abell has scored 17 points in both games, and Creek has gone for 13 in each game, too.
They play again on Friday in the quarterfinals against No. 3 seed Boeheim's Army, a collection of former Syracuse players that beat a Purdue-based team 76-69 on Tuesday. Indiana fans will certainly continue to root hard for them because it's easy to root against Syracuse guys, for good reasons (1987) and bad (2013.)
Ironically, the final game that Creek and Abell played in at Indiana was that heartbreaking 63-50 loss to Syracuse in the regional semifinals of the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament.
For Creek, he seldom played that season after coming back from the third of three serious injuries he suffered during his four years at Indiana. He earned instant hero status when he arrived in 2009 in Tom Crean's first important recruiting class that included Creek, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston, among others.
His big splash came on Dec. 12, 2009, when he scored 31 points in a 90-73 loss to No. 4-ranked Kentucky. The severely outmanned Hoosiers stuck around for the longest time because of Creek, who was the top-scoring freshman in the nation when he was lost for the season in late-December when he fractured his left knee.
He was never the same again.
He had a second serious injury — this time a stress fracture in his knee — halfway through his sophomore year and he missed his entire third year with an Achilles tendon injury just prior to the season. When he came back for the 2012-13 season, Indiana was preseason No. 1 and he had been passed over by several players on the depth chart. He averaged only 1.8 points that season and transferred the following year.
Hoosier Nation always appreciated that effort as a freshman, because it looked like he was going to be the key piece to Tom Crean's turnaround at Indiana. There was no question he was the best freshman in the country when he went down. And three major injuries in 22 months was a lot to go through. In his first three years on campus, he played in only 30 games.
Abell came to Bloomington from Louisville, Ky., the first Hoosier recruit from Kentucky in more than 40 years. He was a glue guy off the bench, a good defender with limited scoring ability. He played in 32 games as a freshman in the 2011-12 season, averaging 3.0 points per game. He played in all 36 games the following year, coming off the bench and averaging 4.0 points a game.
He scored two points in 10 minutes in that NCAA loss to Syracuse and was, amazingly, the only guard to score in that game. Starters Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell and even Creek, who made a token appearance at the end, all went scoreless.
Abell averaged 12 minutes a game off the bench that final year, but was looking for more. After sitting out a year, he had a nice career at Xavier and, like Creek, has been playing professionally overseas ever since college.
Here's to hoping they can continue their run in the TBT. They're easy guys to root for, and they're certainly playing for a good cause because we all hate cancer.
Related stories from the TBT tournament
- PURDUE TEAM LOSES TO SYRACUSE GROUP: The run is over for Men of Mackey, a team of mostly Purdue players that lost to Boeheim's Army after winning their first-round game. CLICK HERE
- TOM BREW COLUMN: It's great to be watching basketball again with the TBT, even if Indiana doesn't have its own team. CLICK HERE
- TBT SCHEDULE, RESULTS: Here are the results from every game played in the TBT Tournament thus far, and the schedule for the rests of the way. CLICK HERE
- MAURICE CREEK POSTGAME: Watch Maurice Creek talk about Tuesday victory in the tweet below.