• Mitch Creek guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo during the former's time with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Brimming with belief, Mitch Creek is hopeful his upcoming campaign with South East Melbourne can help make his dreams of returning to the NBA a reality.
By
Jonathan Bernard

23 Nov 2021 - 9:46 AM  UPDATED 23 Nov 2021 - 9:46 AM

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A wave of nostalgia floods Creek’s conscience as Olivier Sedra serenades the Barclays Center with Brooklyn’s starting five.

Almost three years have passed since he last played Nets basketball, but tonight, he’s back on the floor and desperate to repay the faith shown in him by coach Steve Nash.

Very few G League players prove they’re worthy of an NBA roster spot, but that’s the mission Creek has set out to accomplish, even after he exits the MyCareer menu of NBA 2K22.

Not since July 2019 has Creek hit the American hardwood, with the Australian splitting the 2018-19 season at both the Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as their minor league affiliates.

The resemblance between his real-life journey and 2K’s famous video game series is “uncanny”, according to Creek, but it’s the lessons learned that separate his quest from the rest.

“In Brooklyn, I first learned about the professionalism and elite-level work and recovery needed each and every day to become your very best,” Creek told SBS Sport.

“The Timberwolves were much the same but the staff in each place had somewhat different methods.

“There were so many players that I learned a lot from too. Caris LeVert was a tireless day-to-day worker who made you want to be better every day.

“It’s special to be around guys like Jared Dudley, who are veterans and just help others perform and get the most out of each day.

“Food, recovery, training, gym, rehab, treatment … both (teams) gave me valuable knowledge and experience that I use in my day-to-day life even now.”

Those teachings have helped the 29-year-old to flourish since his return to the NBL in 2019, where he has starred as a marquee signing for expansion franchise, South East Melbourne Phoenix.

The 6’5” forward has averaged 19.1 points, 6.84 rebounds and 3.37 assists through two seasons with the Phoenix and enters his third with the newfound belief that his first NBA stint won’t be his last.

“Believing in myself and not having the question mark in my own head of, ‘am I good enough? Can I be a great player? Do I deserve it? Will I ever get it?’,” he explained.

“Making it is one thing but realising you’re good enough to stay there is another and that’s something I knew when I missed out on getting signed in the NBA again.

“It makes you work even harder to want to get back there.”

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Securing the Phoenix a second successive finals berth in just their third season of existence would go a long way to helping Creek’s cause in 2022, and the two-way talent has vowed to “showcase my courage" and "make players better around me” along the way.

Should the Horsham-born Boomer earn a call-up back to the NBA, he will become the eighth Australian currently in the Association after Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Josh Giddey, Josh Green and Jock Landale.

Such a prospect remains the primary goal of Creek’s career and despite its impending difficulties, the 2017 Asian Cup champion contends he will stop at nothing until he achieves it once again.

“I believe I’m good enough and it’s a matter of zero off-court distractions, a great headspace and I think it will fall into place,” he said.

“Each day I’m pushing myself and others for greatness and with a desire to learn and grow; to be accountable and proud of one’s work.

“Chop wood, carry water is something I live by. If I continue to do that, I’ll give myself the very best chance to be back in the NBA.”