The Evolution of Greivis Vasquez

2/23/2010 2:16:14 PM I have a foggy memory of Greivis Vasquez's coming out party. It's not foggy because I'm getting old and can't remember things or because I was under the influence of alcohol. Actually, I watched the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup between Maryland and Illinois on November 28th, 2006 from my couch at home. I had gall bladder surgery the day before and was on medication. But I do remember Vasquez scoring 17 points in the Terps victory, pretty much taking over late in the game and leading us to a win that ended a long unbeaten streak by the Illini on their home floor. I remember cheering for him, then holding my stomach in pain! But it was worth it.

The rest is history. Or, will be history. The ups and downs of Vasquez's career at Maryland has been a wild ride. He has been loved by the fans and he has been a source of frustration as well. In the past week or so, we have been trying to place Vasquez somewhere in the history of great Maryland basketball players. The problem in doing so is that the Terps have never had a player like Vasquez, so there is nothing to compare him to. Juan Dixon was clutch and a leader. He led the team to their only National Championship. But Juan did not score, rebound AND share the ball like GV. Lenny Bias was an athletic freak; a guy who put people in the seats and a guy who made Maryland basketball a household name. But Lenny did not become the only player in ACC history (and that's a lot of great players) to have at least 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds in his career.

In my opinion, Vasquez deserves to be in the Top 10 players of all time at Maryland and he should have his name in the rafters. He could cement his legacy by leading the team to an ACC title (regular season or tournament) or a deep run in the NCAA tournament. If the team collapses, he will go down in history as a great player stat-wise and entertainment-wise, but ultimately not a guy who could get his team to the promised land. It's unfortunate, but true. It's not enough that the Terps have had winning seasons for the past 19 years. After spoiling the fan base with Final 4's and National Titles, it's hard to give the utmost credit to a guy who would have only gone to 2 NCAA tournaments in his 4 years. However, let's not forget that the Terps would not have been a winning team without GV. We would not have gone to the NCAA tournament last season without him. Take away that UNC victory last year, and we don't make it. That was all GV.

We have seen Vasquez grow over the past 4 years. He was inconsistent but fiery in his freshman year as the seniors helped the team to a late season surge that put them into the tournament. His sophomore year was one to forget as the Terps blew games that would have gone a long way in getting them to the tournament, but they ended up getting beat by Syracuse in the 2nd round of the NIT. Vasquez was a walking turnover that season and I remember joking that he had a few games that were close to the dreaded triple double that included turnovers. That brings us to a junior year that started to show some improvement. Vasquez would still have the occasional bad game or one where he could not keep his mouth shut beforehand, but you could see some improvement in his play. You could see the decision-making improve as well. Somewhat. Sometimes it was like 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

It was a tough season last year. With the Post's hatchet job on the program to Vasquez jawing with his own fans, it could have been the end for him. It was just so tough to love Vasquez because by watching him you could see how great he could be, but when he did not trust his teammates and tried to do it all himself, he proved he could not do it all alone. We knew he could be better if he just controlled himself a bit more and it was maddening when he played out of control. But that's GV. What makes him great is what makes us crazy.

I've never rooted for a player that I could love and hate within 30 seconds. He is unique that way. However, once he had that triple-double against UNC last year and from what we've seen this year, there is no doubt in my mind he is one of the best.

I know I don't regret getting on him early in the season when he tried to change his game to prove something to the NBA guys. I don't regret getting on him in the Wake Forest game for playing selfishly. He did. But he seemed to learn the final lesson in that one and has been one of the Top 10 players in college basketball this season. He won't get that credit nationally, but we know it is true.

As far as I'm concerned, his legacy as a Terp should be positive. He is one of the all time greats. I hope he can lead this team to something special this season because that will help others realize how good he was. We will find out early next year just how valuable he was when we are learning to play without him. The future is bright, but you just don't take a guy like Vasquez away and not lose something.

Perhaps years from now I can look back fondly at his pull up 3-pointers which always have me yelling 'NO!!!' and cursing his name. Right now, he still makes me nervous, but there's no player right now I'd rather have out there leading this team than GV. Nobody wants to win more than him. Maybe that was his ultimate problem. He wants to win so bad that sometimes he thought he was the only one who could do it. But things have changed with him. His quote from Saturday about not wanting to talk about his accomplishments and only discussing Cliff Tucker's shot was something not many college athletes will do.

He is a great guy and a great teammate.

He is a unique player who is probably a lot better than we give him credit for.

He is our Vasquez and though he drives me crazy, I love the guy! Now go beat Clemson!
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