Maurice “Mo” Creek, a former college standout at Indiana and George Washington, said Sunday he was “stuck” in Ukraine, where he has been playing professionally since January.
Eventually, Creek was able to get his wish. Early Tuesday morning where he was, he tweeted that he was “finally out of Ukraine” and would be returning to Romania, where he played in 2020-21.
In an interview Sunday with basketballnews.com, Creek had told former NBA player Etan Thomas that he was speaking from a bomb shelter in the basement of his apartment complex, where some neighbors had turned wooden pallets into makeshift beds.
“I’ve been going back and forth between my apartment and the bomb shelter that they put me in to be safe, because the war is going on around our area,” the 31-year-old said. “So we just have to be as safe as possible, keep our heads held low.”
Creek claimed he was the last American left of the several dozen on Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague teams. He blamed the situation on his team, MBC Mykolaiv, which he said has not fully paid him since he signed in December. Mykolaiv officials did not take the threat of a Russian invasion seriously, he said, and looked at him as someone trying to wriggle out of his contract rather than flee a potential war zone. Creek added that when Russian forces moved in Thursday, “there was no plan” to help him escape.
The team has been withholding his official letter of clearance, Creek said, which basketball players in Europe need to be able to sign in other countries. In addition, his relative lack of pay made it difficult for him to make flight and travel arrangements.
“I’ve been hearing the bombs at night, the shooting at night, and it’s terrifying for me to hear that,” he told Fox News. “My family is on the phone, worried sick. My coaching staff with me right now is worried sick. I’m worried. It’s just bad right now.”
Mykolaiv is located near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, approximately 300 miles south of Kyiv and 175 miles east of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, which offers the nearest border. Creek told Thomas he had been hoping that the U.S. Embassy, with which he has not been in touch, would “scoop me up and get me up out of here.”
Earlier this month, with Russia conducting major military exercises in neighboring Belarus, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was ordered by the Biden administration to drastically reduce its staff. On Sunday, the embassy issued an advisory that urged American citizens in Ukraine to “depart now using privately available transportation options if it is safe to do so.” It described crossing points into Moldova as “severely backed up” and suggested that those leaving Ukraine bring enough provisions to last them for at least two days, in addition to hard copies of all necessary documents. American citizens could fill out an online form and expect a response from the State Department, the embassy said, but they should not expect to be evacuated by the U.S. government.
Calling Creek’s situation “gut-wrenching,” former Indiana coach Tom Crean told thehoosier.com: “The safe haven of a gym cannot protect him right now. I am praying for his ability to be able to be safe and get out of harm’s way.”
A native of Oxon Hill, Md., Creek played for three high school programs over five years before committing to Indiana. He got off to a terrific start with the Hoosiers and was averaging 16.4 points over 12 games when he suffered a severe knee injury. Another knee issue disrupted his sophomore season before his junior campaign was scratched altogether when he tore an Achilles’ tendon. Creek returned the following season to play limited minutes for Indiana, and then he transferred to GW for his final year of eligibility. With the Colonials, Creek averaged 14.1 points, hit a memorable buzzer-beater against Maryland and helped GW to the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Lucky Jones, a 28-year-old American who was playing in Ternopil, a city in western Ukraine, said his journey Thursday to the Romanian border was “traumatizing.”
“I woke up in the morning and all I saw was people flying around, trying to grab everything they could out of the grocery store, water, food and all the medical supplies,” Jones told NJ.com. “[The Russian forces] were definitely inching closely every hour to where we were living.
Jones was accompanied by two American teammates — Joe Furstinger and former NBA player Toure’ Murry — and others as they journeyed by van to the border. He said that with traffic coming to a standstill as they neared Romania, the three of them walked the final few miles to join hundreds of other refugees in a chaotic scene.
“It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Jones said Friday after he reached Amsterdam and was scheduled to fly back to the United States the next day.
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.
Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.
Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.