Country boys Creek, Bruce take different routes back to the NBL

Bruce was left without a team last season despite more than 150 NBL games but he earned an injury replacement stint with the Adelaide 36ers.

In free agency, the Kings quickly pounced on him once their back-up point guard, Kyle Adnam, crossed to the Phoenix.

Both Creek and Bruce have thrived at their new clubs with Creek among the most valuable player candidates and Bruce winning praise for his sturdy work for the ladder-leading Kings including a 14-point performance against Melbourne United.

“As you get older it’s nice to see where things go in life when you work hard and have the right mindset,” Creek said when asked about facing off with his fellow Horsham Hornet.

Bruce refused to drop his head last season and understanding other teams had players in his position under contract leaving him as the odd man out.

“I stayed optimistic. I knew I could play at this level,” Bruce said.

“I didn’t have any direct conversations with the Kings in the off-season. Kyle had a good season for them and I assumed he would be re-signing. I focused on other teams like Cairns, Adelaide and the Phoenix. Just trying to do anything I could to get back in the league. But then Kyle moved to the Phoenix and, revolving door, my agent said there was an opportunity here.

“With other teams it was all ‘wait and see’ so when something was officially offered, I jumped at it. I was extremely grateful.”

As Bruce kept chasing a return to the NBL, he took confidence from seeing someone from Horsham, a western Victorian town with a population of around 20,000, playing in the NBA.

“That was surreal, to see another kid my age from Horsham putting himself in those opportunities,” Bruce said.

“Mitch represented himself and the town really well. I was excited for him and excited to see him back in the NBL. He’s in the race for MVP and it shows how far he has come.”

Creek had no doubts Bruce would thrive with the Kings.

“He’s one of the most consistent back-up point guards in the league and will run a team at a high level – you can see that in his assists and his assist-to-turnover ratio, his shot selection is great and the way he makes others better,” Creek said.

“He encapsulates what you want players to be on your team and it’s great seeing another Horsham guy in the league doing really well.”

The two players also have a connection with Shaun’s brother Cam Bruce married to Maddy Bruce (nee Creek), Mitch’s cousin.

Bruce is also embracing the chance to play with Kings veterans Andrew Bogut, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickett who all played with his older brother Aaron at the AIS and for Australia.

“I had posters on my wall of those guys,” Bruce said.

“I idolised then as a teenager, it’s really cool to be playing with them now.”

South East Melbourne Phoenix host Sydney Kings at Melbourne Arena on Saturday at 5.30pm.

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