clear�from the start that the kid has cojones. On Oct. 14, the day of his
first practice at Maryland, Greivis Vasquez marched up to the office of
notoriously tempestuous Terps coach Gary Williams. The 6'5" freshman
knocked on the door, stood at attention in the threshold and barked,
"Reporting for duty, sir!" Then he saluted his new general and walked
Vasquez, a combo
guard who hails from Venezuela, is College Park's fearless plebe. Thanks to his
acrobatic and passionate playing style, Vasquez has been the catalyst off the
bench for No. 23 Maryland (8--1 through Sunday), which is off to its best start
in five years. In a 72--66 win over previously unbeaten Illinois on Nov. 28,
Vasquez scored 17 points, including 15 in an electric second-half performance.
He rescued the Terps after they nearly blew a 15-point first-half lead, scoring
in nearly every way imaginable down the stretch, while his family listened to
the Internet radio feed back home in Caracas. "They don't know any
English," he says, "but they were hearing ' Vasquez! Vasquez with the
ball!' and going crazy."
Vasquez is a rare
basketball export from a baseball-mad nation that has produced nearly 200 major
leaguers but just two NBA-caliber hoopsters (former Rockets Oscar Torres and
Carl Herrara). His father, Gregorio, is a New York Yankees fan, but Greivis
preferred basketball because, he says, he was "too hyper [for] baseball; I
couldn't wait around for the ball to be hit to me." Greivis switched to
hoops at age nine; by 16 he had made Venezuela's junior national team. In June
2005, to improve his basketball skills, Vasquez left home to attend Montrose
Christian School in Rockville, Md., where he played two seasons for renowned
coach Stu Vetter. "When I handed Greivis his first pair of [school-issued]
shoes--new Jordans--he said, '[These are] Big Time! ... Super Big Time!'"
Vetter recalls. The phrase became Vasquez's signature saying. "Now I think
he has become a Super Big Time player," says Vetter.
agree after watching their sixth man average 9.9 points and 3.6 assists in just
23.4 minutes per game. Williams calls Vasquez his John Havlicek--"You bring
him off the bench, and he changes the emotion of the team"--and Vasquez has
also drawn comparisons to Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, a fellow South American,
for his long-striding drives, flashy passes and equally showy celebrations.
"He's flamboyant, but that's his personality," Vetter says. "He
plays better when he's pounding his chest and firing up his teammates."
on-court recklessness occasionally riles Williams ("I let him know when
he's getting cocky," the coach says), but he complements steady starting
point guard Eric Hayes and must continue to play a key role if Maryland is to
make a run at the ACC title. After missing the NCAA tournament for two straight
seasons, the Terps--thanks in large part to their fiery freshman--are on the
verge of becoming Big Time again.