Mitch Creek talks about sending out prayers to Lebanon and FIBA Asia Cup 2017 memories
MELBOURNE (Australia) - In a recent talk on the FIBA Asia Cup Instagram, Australia Boomer Mitch Creek reminisced about his time in Lebanon, his childhood background from Horsham, and his experience through the entire World Cup process among other topics.
Check out the full discussion on @FIBAAsiaCup IGTV.
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After a quick update on his whereabout and what he was currently up to Creek talked in length about his Asia Cup experience.
"Obviously it's sad to see now because the first FIBA Asia Cup we went to was actually held in Beirut," Creek said, in reference to the current situation in Lebanon. "It was literally 3 years and a couple days ago when we arrived there. To see those pop up in my memories is obviously very saddening given what's going on right now."
"But the introduction [for Australia] to the FIBA Asia Cup was obviously a great one for us. We came away with the gold medal and we played some great opponents. We knew we had some formidable battles on our hands and that we're a top quality teams that had some big centers and some great shooting guards who I still stay in touch with and keep close knit because obviously we're going to run out with these teams in the future."
"We know that the [Asia Cup] have got a great pool of talent and continually adding to it. The games against the Philippines have always been great, both here and abroad so we were excited that we got to be a part of it."
Creek also added on about the current situation in Lebanon, offering his support and prayers to those affected.
"I can't begin to imagine in any day of my life what the people are going through," Creek said. "The nation, the surrounding nations, those that have extended family, friends, and loved ones. I'm not a religious man, but I offer my prayers, my thoughts, my love to all of those people that are going through hardship. To see the videos, the content, to see some of the translation of the feeds where people are dying from the smoke and the inhalation, things like that, you can't even imagine it. You just can't put yourself there. So I know I probably speak for everyone in the world that we wish everyone the best. We hope that they can move forward and that they can find some sign of care and love from everyone else and feel that energy and warmth because we're definitely with them. We wish them the best."
"It's sad to think that I was there a few years ago, playing basketball in front of thousands of loyal fans. Though they're not Australian fans over there - they were Lebanese fans - but they were cheering for us and at times they were booing us. But we love that support. We love that competitiveness and we just wish them the best. Everyone is praying for them right now."
Of course, it was also emotional because Lebanon was where Creek officially put on a Boomers jersey in a game for the first time. Even after all these years, Creek still gets excited even talking about that moment.
"It's so hard to put your finger on it," Creek said as he tried to describe his feelings. "I never thought I would play professionally, let alone for my country at a junior level or senior level. The fact that I've done both and that I've played in the NBA as well, is something I strive for and work towards every single day to get back to."
"When I got told the first time that I made the [Asia Cup] team and I burst into tears. I cried for 4-5 minutes in front of the coaches. I was shaking. I didn't believe it."
"The fact that I was even trying on the jersey and selecting my size, how big I wanted my shorts, and what number I wanted to get, that was the coolest moment as a basketball player that I've had in my entire life. To go through that and to relive it in your mind over and over again, this is why we play basketball. This is why we compete. This is what inspires us to do the same thing."
"I grew up in a farm in a little country town in Australia called Horsham in Victoria. It's about 3-4 hours away from where I live now and there's only maybe about 15,000 people that lived there so it's not a big town, it's not a big city. I didn't have private coaching or incredible facilities but somehow, with enough work, dedication, and sacrifice, I was able to play for the Australia national team and tick some of these goals."
"To say I knew this was going to happen is an absolute lie. I never thought it would be the case but I'm extremely thankful for those who helped me along the way to get to the point."
Creek's underdog story is truly inspiring, coming up from a farm in a small town all the way to playing at the World Cup. It's even more remarkable that all the inspiration and motivations he needed throughout his childhood were just that of the standout local talents in town.
"I understand that everyone would see LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Kobe as those who are role models," Creek started. "But for me growing up, I had role models that are local basketball players who I thought were champions. Unimaginable to what other people might think, but I just thought that they were gods. That's how I looked at them."
"I used to sweep the courts for the Horsham Hornets basketball team which was like the men's local team that we put into state competitions," He said of how he first got involved in the game. "I used to sweep the courts."
"Honestly, I just did it for the bag of lollies and meat pie I had at half time and a can of soft drinks," Creek admitted with laughter. "But I did enjoy being close to the action. I loved being a part of it. I always had fun memories of watching the boys play."
"I was very fortunate to have the guys I looked up to a lot like, I've said this many times, Tim Pickett. He was one of the captains of the team for a very long time. Local player, could have played at a very, very high level. He played for Victoria at times in national championship."
"Aaron Bruce played as well and I idolized him at a young age because he went off to Baylor college and had a great career there. He should have got drafted and played in the NBA but was very unfortunate though played in World Championship teams as well."
"So I had great role models. I had people I really admired and looked up to. I had great coaches. You mix that with the great support network in my family and my friends and all of the sudden, I have all the inspiration that I need."
"I never really even watched an NBA game at a young age. I had all I needed in my hometown, I thought that was just as good as Michael Jordan and LeBron James. If they said to play 2-2 against [Jordan and James], I would have picked our Horsham boys over them."
Another major inspiration in Creek's basketball career is his father. Family means a lot to the 28-year-old which is why he brings his onto the court every single time in the form of his jersey number.
"Some of the numbers I've had, I haven't always had the choice. They just kind of said 'Here's your number'."
"For me, I always wanted to be number 55," Creek said. "I wanted to be number 5 because my dad was number 5 and I wanted to play alongside him and get to share those memories with him."
"My dad was a very keen basketball player. He had some old school photos of him shooting a fadeaway in black and white with his little tight-white shorts that barely covered his thighs and old loose singlet. That was an admirable photo and feeling for me and I wanted to be a basketball player, too. I wanted cool shots like that. So I wanted to be number 5."
"When I was first with the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL, Brett Marr was a player who had his number retired and he was number 5. At the time we couldn't go above certain numbers so I had to settle for 23 which 2 and 3 was 5. Then eventually it got the point where I could wear whatever I wanted."
"Ever since then, I've worn 55. 5 for my dad and 5 for myself as well. It's pretty cool to be able to wear it. It's pretty cool to be able to pull it on every day and know that you're playing for your family, as well as my mum and my two sisters."
For as passionate as Creek is about his upcoming and family being a part of his basketball career, he is just as passionate on the court. It's become a trademark of his style of play and what's made him a fan favorite wherever he goes.
"I wasn't always [passionate] like that," Creek said. "It was something that has grown in me over time. I don't want to be 65 years old - that's the retirement age in Australia - sitting (hopefully) by a house that I've got in the country near a lake on my deck chair thinking 'You know what? I wish I did this' or 'I should have done that' or 'I should have said this or try that or go on this route'. I want to just to live to my potential right now. I want to give myself every chance to be successful and regardless of whether I am successful or not in someone else's eyes, I've given it my best effort. I've given every chance to be exactly that and I'm never going to be disappointed in myself."
"If I half-ass it and I bullshit my way through out and I get it, I'm disappointed beyond measure. You will never find anyone harder on themselves as I am and although I don't show it very often or barely ever, it's something that sits deep inside when I know I've given it my all, knowing when I've sacrificed and done what's necessary to give myself a chance to be successful."
"That competitiveness comes out because I just don't want to be like 'Oh, I never gave it a real effort'. I just want to give everything I have. We call it 'putting your balls on the line' and just going after it."
"That's how I want to play every possession. I want to give my team a chance to be successful every possession. I want to give every game the ability to come out a winner and if not, we learn from it and we use that for the next one to motivate ourselves to strive for that next goal or that next successful game."
"The passion sits in me and it never leaves no matter what it is. I could be playing UNO with my friends or Connect-4 and I'm competitive as all hell, I'm not losing. That's my mentality."
All of that passion has led Creek to an inspiring story over the past 3-4 years, including a roller coaster experience leading up to the World Cup in 2019.
"I got cut from the squad originally," Creek recalled. "I just finished my NBA season, came back and went on a holiday. I had played for about 18 months straight without a break. I did three preseasons in a row, I had no rest, I had no time off. Mentally and physically I was burnt out. I had nothing really left in the tank. Mentally, I was starting to fade a lot with a lot and I went on holiday for about 2 weeks. I just decompressed and went into camp, wasn't 100%, did okay, didn't get picked, and supported the team with their choice. I said 'Look, if you ever need me, if anything happens I'll always be available. If not, good luck all the best, go get a gold medal'."
"Now, I came back and had about a week and a half where I was just at home. I was searching for a house in Melbourne adjusting over here and I get a call. One of the guys got injured, sadly, and they called me. They asked me 'I know it's crazy but would you like to be a part of the team?'"
"I said that's the most stupidest question you've ever asked in your entire life," Creek exclaimed with a chuckle. "He was like alright good I'll see you tomorrow. I got on a plane and I flew four hours to Perth and was part of the team the next day. We played against Canada in a string of pre-tournament matches. You skip ahead and you go through the process of re-preparing yourself for a World Cup when you potentially thought you could have been a part and that's a hard thing to do. Because when you're not a part of the original squad, you might not really feel like you belong immediately or a part of it as you might want to feel."
"But I went to the squad and the team was great, the squad was amazing, the staff was incredible."
Once Creek and the Boomers finally got to China and played their first game, the incredible emotion of wearing the green and gold flooded into his heart once again.
"To be out there for the first game and have the national anthem sung, to be arm in arm with your brothers from Australia, it was the absolute pinnacle of my basketball career. Just that single feeling of hearing the national anthem, looking down the aisle seeing the boys, looking across the court knowing that we're going to come here and try to tear their heads off to get this win. That was a pretty powerful feeling that still resonates with me and still pushes me through my training even till today."
Even though Australia have not been playing in the Asia Cup for long (2017 was their debut), they have had some memorable clashes with other Asian teams throughout the past few years. Creek has been a part of most of these games and has enjoyed every single bit of competition that he can get.
"I love playing against Japan," Creek said. "Iran have got some great players. They touched us up over there and beat us over there [in Iran] during the World Cup Qualifiers. Credits to them. Great game. They have great talent, they have great coaching, and those have been really the two teams I've really enjoyed playing against."
"In saying that, I just want to say that I just love playing against [anyone] opposing the green and gold. It's a feeling that I wish everyone could feel."
"To put on the green and gold and to play for your country, for me, as I've said, there's nothing like it. I really wish everyone could feel the feeling I feel inside even right now talking about it, it's really, really cool."
Of course, there are also some teams that the Boomers haven't had to chance to face frequently that Creek looks forward to playing against in the future, especially with the opportunity to defend the Asia Cup title on the line.
"I definitely think China are always going to be a very strong nation," Creek said of the all-time leader in Asia Cup titles won. "They play a very exciting, very fast-paced style of basketball. They're not afraid to shoot the ball, they get the off the dribble to get to the rim, they're crafty."
"They got guys that are big, long, and athletic that can finish. They have great guards, good length and size, and they're obviously well coached. You know they're going to come to play."
Creek knows that it won't be easy against any team they face throughout the qualification process up until the Asia Cup itself. Therefore, he feels its best that the most detailed scouting report they need right now is of themselves.
"I think [China] are obviously a very big threat to us and I do think you can go down the list and say that about nearly every single team that'll participate. But I do believe we need to focus on ourselves as much as possible."
"I just think we have to obviously, one, get over there first," he laughed. "Get past what's going in the world right now. I'd really love to see a healthy team. I'd love to see all those that are available put their hand up."
"I know that sometimes people have the problem with availability in different countries. Even in Australia they haven't put their hands up for non-World Cup or Olympic tournaments. I'd love to see us Aussies really put our hands up and send over a really dominant powerful team."
"We're obviously going to be well-coached. We've had been in great hands over the past couple of years that I've been a part of with Andrej Lemanis and our assistants as well. We're very fortunate and I just want to get over there and hopefully be a part of it."
"Anytime you get to put [the jersey] on is an amazing feeling. I'd love to try and defend [the Asia Cup title]. I'm not sure who we'd have or when we'd travel but I'd really like to see us go over there one-hundred percent put on a great show for Australian basketball and the world to see because I do think Australia is one of the most powerful nations stepping on the court. I don't think we're far behind the top two teams. I'm excited to see how our progress tracks over the next 5-6 months and where we keep ourselves going into a big tournament year."
As usual in these talks between FIBA Asia Cup and the stars, Creek was asked to compile a team - this time of players in the Asia Cup he likes to go up agianst.
"First, I'd put Ira [Brown]," Creek began.
"Ira was a great player that I always got to watch. Very powerful, very dominant four man. He was a guy that I was like. He's a big dog, he's a big strong ox that can just compete and he plays hard and he's gritty and he's tough. so I always enjoyed that battle. I only got to play against him a few times, I got to meet him and torture him a few times as well, so it's been cool to be able to share the court with him."
"[Hamed] Haddadi is good. The Lebanese Tiger [Fadi El-Khatib], he was an absolute beast. You have to put those three in there."
"For the one and two you might have [Jayson Castro from the Philippines]. Then from Japan, [Makoto Hiejima], I think he was number 6, he was a shooting guard with long deep range three-point shooting, he lit us up a few times."
"If you put some all-star teams together [from the Asia Cup], you'd have a really dangerous team for sure."
Before Creek wrapped up the discussion, he mentioned about a free webinar he was conducting with his friend about true health and wellness which he encouraged interested fans to check out for updates on his Instagram in the upcoming days.
And of course, Creek also signed off with a sincere appreciation to all of the fans (and even the haters!) for their support and motivation over the years.
Don't forget to check out the full discussion with Mitch Creek on @FIBAAsiaCup IGTV!