Boys Basketball

Longtime Belleville East basketball assistant gets chance to lead Lancers

Jeff Creek, 34, was hired as the sixth head boys basketball coach at Belleville East during a meeting of the District 201 Board of Education Thursday.
Jeff Creek, 34, was hired as the sixth head boys basketball coach at Belleville East during a meeting of the District 201 Board of Education Thursday.

Belleville East has had five head boys basketball coaches in its 50-year history.

The sixth, Jeff Creek, says his style at practice and on the bench will be some combination of those that came before him.

Creek, a former player and 11-year assistant coach at East, was officially hired at a meeting of the Belleville Township School District 201 board of education Thursday.

“It’s hard to develop just one style because you don’t know what you have year to year,” he said. “I like to go full court pressure and run the floor, but I don’t mind slowing it up and going man when we have advantages in the half court.”

Creek, 34, averaged 8.4 points per game for the Lancers as a senior in 2001. He got a few “nibbles” from college recruiters, “but nothing that would be worth my while,” he said.

He went to Missouri State University for a year before transferring to McKendree, where he earned his degree in secondary education and history. He teaches history and civics to freshmen and sophomores at East.

But Creek always kept his sites on being a basketball coach.

I knew when I played in high school I'd want to come back and coach. I really wanted to be a teacher and that coaching would go hand in hand with that.

Jeff Creek, Belleville East head basketball coach

“I knew when I played in high school I’d want to come back and coach,” he said. “I really wanted to be a teacher and that coaching would go hand in hand with that.”

Doug McCrary, who coached for 15 seasons at East, gave him his chance in 2007. Creek has since led the freshman, sophomore or junior varsity teams for five years each under Ray Hoffman and Abel Schrader.

“When Coach McCrary got me started I knew I was hooked,” he said. “Working with the kids and building those relationships with them is so rewarding.”

Each of the three coaches Creek has worked under have influenced him as a coach, he said.

“I have the benefit of picking what I liked from Coach McCrary, Coach Hoffman and Coach Schrader,” said Creek. “They laid the blueprint for me. It was great to work with all of them for the last 11 years.”

Schrader resigned as Lancers head coach in March, citing increased responsibilities to his young – and growing – family. He was 86-57 with a regional championship in 2014.

I have the benefit of picking what I liked from Coach McCrary, Coach Hoffman and Coach Schrader. They laid the blue print for me.

Jeff Creek

The Lancers were 16-13 overall and 6-8 in the Southwestern Conference in Schrader’s last season.

Creek will press on in the 2017-18 season without the soon-to-be graduated former Illinois commitment Javon Pickett (25.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), Rico Sylvester (14 ppg, 62 3-pointers), and three other seniors.

He’ll welcome back an experienced new core that includes Malachi Smith (12 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Jordan Yates (7.7 ppg) and Jaylen Lacy (4.6 ppg). Alex Smith, who missed last season with an ACL tear, will return to contribute in his senior year as well.

Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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