Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
2/26/2008 09:18:00 AM
Q&A with ... Maryland's Greivis Vasquez
Sophomore Greivis Vasquez tied a Maryland single-game record with 15 assists in a win over N.C. State on Feb. 9.
For the latest Q&A, I chatted with Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, a sophomore from Caracas, Venezuela, who's averaging 17.5 points and 6.7 assists per game. The Terps are currently 17-11 (7-6 in the ACC) and on the NCAA tournament bubble. The following is an edited transcript of a conversation with Vasquez from late last week:
Luke Winn: For a Sports Illustrated piece from last season, you told me a story about your family listening to Webcasts of Maryland games, specifically a big early win over Illinois. Is this how they still follow the Terps from Venezuela?
Greivis Vasquez: That's legendary now. We've got a Web site for Maryland that has the game [stats] on it, and they track it, just sit around the computer and keep refreshing the page. And they've got the Internet radio that they can listen to. But they don't speak English. So they wait to hear my last name, and then they go crazy. They'll keep the [box score] on the computer that shows when a player shoots the ball, and there's maybe 40 people watching that as it loads. They've got ESPN now too, though, so when we're on that they can see it on TV.
LW: You talked about your dad being a huge New York Yankees fan. Have you taken him to a game yet when he's visited the states?
GV: He LOVES the Yankees. Loves baseball. He can talk about baseball for years and years. He wanted me to play baseball, but I couldn't wait for the ball to come to me.
This summer when he came we went to see the the Orioles when they played the Yankees, twice. But I want to take him to Yankee Stadium, go up to New York so he can see one of those games. That would be special.
LW: I heard you do -- or at least used to do -- a celebration dance in practice called the Caracas Shuffle.
GV: My high school coach, coach [David] Adkins (an assistant at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md.), called me "Caracas Shuffle" because I'd be bouncing around all the time in practice -- especially when I made a big shot. Sometimes I'd celebrate that, but I've stopped it mostly since I got to college. Coach [Gary] Williams doesn't really like that. He does let me do it once in a while, and I will, just to remember the old days.
LW: So how does the dance go?
GV: I'll kind of shake my shoulders, like a shake-and-bake thing, and maybe do a little bit of chicken wing. Sometimes I'll make a funny face while I'm doing it. I don't know if you watched the game when we played Duke last year, but I made a big three and then came to the end of the court, and was shaking my shoulders and dancing. That was pretty cool at the time -- because we were winning.
LW: It seems like you live for games at Duke.
GV: Duke is a great environment. I give a lot of respect to Coach K: he is one of the best in the business. Their fans are so good; they're into the game, they make the game so much better. It's just good to play in that environment. And of course Duke is a great team. You have to compete with somebody better than you, or on an equal level to you, so you can get better.
LW: The Cameron Crazies put a lot of effort into heckling you in particular. What's the best thing they've said?
GV: The funniest thing is when they started calling me names about my president in Venezuela, [Hugo] Chavez. They know the situation there. Our president is known as a guy who talks a lot, who doesn't like the president of the United States. They talk a lot of trash abut that, and say things like that I'm [Chavez's] son. I guess they do research and think, 'How can I get this guy?'
LW: Being Chavez's son wouldn't be that bad, right?
GV: If I was actually Chavez's son, I'd be in a great situation, with all the power and money and all that. I mean, he's the president! But I'm not his son. That's not how it is.
LW: After you lost this year at Cameron, Duke's DeMarcus Nelson was quoted as saying about you, "He might have gotten his points tonight, but his teammates didn't, and we got the win. ... It's more about himself than his team. That's something, I guess, they allow in their locker room." What was your reaction to hearing that?
GV: I haven't said anything about that, just because I can't wait to play against Duke again. And that's part of the reason they've been losing lately: They're getting into things that are none of their business. I've got no right to talk about anybody else's locker room, and when I talk after the game -- when I win or lose -- I never say anything bad about any good players or any other teams.
I don't know where he got that from. I was just trying to win the game. I don't have any right to say things about your game, so you better keep it to yourself, and make sure you're doing what you need to do to make your team better, and not worry about anybody else. But he said what he said, and it motivated me to work even harder. So one day I will play aginst him again and show him how it is: That it's not about me scoring 25, it's about me winning basketball games. On that night Duke happened to win.
LW: In an interview for that SI article, Gary Williams told me that you saluted him before the first day of practice in your freshman year. Did you ever do that again?
GV: I do it once in a while still. Not that often. I show him a lot of respect. To me he's maybe the best coach that I'll ever have -- him and Stu Vetter from high school. I love coach Williams -- his attitude, his passion, his energy. It's like I see myself in the mirror when I see the way he coaches practice, and how he's so intense. That's my personality. I want to be coached by him and win a national championship with him. That's going to take a lot of work; I know that every college team wants to win a national championship. It's going to come down to who wants its the most.
LW: Coach Williams used to call you his "John Havlicek" when you were a sixth man as a freshman; now you've transitioned into being the team's leading scorer. Was that a difficult switch?
GV: Any compliment from Coach Williams is great; that's coming from a guy who is going to be a Hall of Famer. He gives me so much confidence, and I know what I'm capable of doing on the court. And especially after playing a lot of basketball with my national team from Venezuela this summer, it wasn't that hard of a transition. I got to play against guys like Kobe [Bryant], Jason Kidd, all the NBA guys, and when I got back to Maryland I kept working hard, hoping that one day I'll reach that level.
LW: What was the best moment from that national-team run?
GV: Guarding Kobe Bryant was unbelievable. I grew up watching him, and all the stuff that he said after the game -- and during the game -- was just good for me to hear.
LW: I read that Kobe spoke to you in Spanish.
GV: He spoke Spanish pretty well. At first he was talking to the ref in Spanish, he was saying that he wasn't elbowing me. Then [Bryant] told me later on, 'Just keep playing hard, you're going to be fine. You're doing good.' It was Kobe Bryant, man! It was just good to hear that. He said a lot of stuff in Spanish. I couldn't believe it.
LW: If you say something in Spanish now, during a college game, what is it?
GV: I'll never forget where I'm coming from, so I've gotta say some things in Spanish to get myself feeling better, or if I don't want someone to understand something -- like, if I'm mad after making a turnover or not shooting the ball well. It's a good thing [people don't understand it] sometimes.
There are a few different things I'll say in Spanish: Sometimes when I'm going 199 miles an hour, I'll tell myself to calm down; or, when I'm starting to go crazy, in a good way, I just say, "Something crazy started!" -- that's when I start going off.
LW: I read (in the DC Sports Bog) about you doing some crazy moped driving on campus. True?
GV: That was just a one-time thing. Some players saw me driving that moped that I borrowed. I was a little late to class, and yeah, I was driving a little crazy because I didn't want to be late. I think I had a quiz. I mean, [the moped] only goes up to 50, so you can't go that crazy with it, but I was going in a wild way, up on the sidewalk and all that. Just yelling, "People! Please move out the way!" and going through the crowd.
I'm not using that moped anymore, though; on campus they just put up some papers saying that nobody's allowed to ride a moped on the sidewalk, that the fine will be like $80 if they catch you.
LW: In that same story, teammate Bambale Osby called you the 'Mr GQ' of the Terrapins. How did you earn that nickname?
GV: I guess I got that because, you know, we're in Maryland, we're close to Washington D.C., and there's a lot of people who can relate with my game, with my energy and all that. I try to just worry about playing basketball, but it's cool when people know who you are in a good way. And Boom knows a lot of people who want to know me, who want to be my friend.
Now he knows my new girlfriend, too, so he had to say something about me dating softball girls and cheerleaders. I used to have a girlfriend who was a cheerleader, and we just broke up a while back. Now I've got a girlfriend who plays softball. I introduced her to Boom, and now he's making her famous.
GV: I mean, that's his personality. His afro looks good on him. That's the way he represents himself. He's got this big afro and he plays that way -- big. A lot of people compare him with Ben Wallace because of that afro, but I don't think they should compare him like that, even though Ben Wallace is a good player. I just think he's Boom Osby. That's his style.
LW: Would you wear that if you could
GV: I wish I could. I wouldn't be able to, though. My hair doesn't grow that way.
LW: I wanted to ask you about the thing you had shaved in your facial hair earlier this season. I had never seen anything like it -- crazy designs on your cheeks. How did you come up with that?
GV: My barber did it. One day he was cutting my hair and was doing some fancy stuff. I told him to shave my face too. When you're young you do some crazy stuff. I mean, college is only four years -- you've got four good years of it.
You have to think about having a fresh look and see if stuff looks good. It's not about looking good necessarily, it's about having some type of STYLE, you know? Like the Spanish people would do. Like Puerto Ricans or Venezuelans would do. You just have to try some things, like having some style on my face. It was cool for a couple of days, but I can't do that anymore. It's not that great for your image if you're trying to eventually be a pro.
LW: This barber, who is he, in case people want to get that design?
GV: His name is Boris. He's Puerto Rican. I call him Boris The Puerto Rican Barber. His shop is like 20 minutes from [campus]. He's always trying new things. And every time I go to his barbershop, they say, 'Oh, that's the guy from Maryland, and I help to make him a little famous. So people will come over and get their hair cut, and ask questions about our games.
LW: This new style that you've got right now, with the goatee and the slick look, what was inspiration for it?
GV: Right now I'm trying to look fresh, clean cut. I wanted to do something good with my hair, to use a lot of gel in my hair to look Spanish and represent my people.
LW: Gel represents the Spanish?
GV: Yeah man, using a lot of gel. I just try to change it up once in a while. I wanted to do some fancy stuff. You've got to keep it real; keep people asking, "What is that in his hair? And what has he got on his face?" It's all for fun.