Vasquez and Coach Williams look back

Tonight will be the final game that Greivis Vasquez plays at the Comcast Center and TSR joins him and Coach Williams in looking back over his career.

On the first day of practice his freshman year, a young Greivis Vasquez peeked into head coach Gary Williams' office, saluted, and told him, “Reporting for duty, sir.”

Since that day more than four years ago, the senior point guard has lived up to his word, committing to self-improvement from the get-go.

“He's been a player who's always wanted to get better,” Williams said on the eve of Vasquez's senior night. “Some guys get here with a great reputation and they don't work hard to keep improving because they think they're good enough, but Greivis has always had the goal to be the best player that he could be. The only thing I did was I always told him that there is always another level to get to for any player, and he's bought into that.”

After flirting briefly with the idea of leaving early for the NBA last summer, Vasquez returned even more determined to better himself as a player, a leader and a teammate. After this year, however, he's not looking forward to leaving.

“I wish I could play two more years at least,” Vasquez said. “Unfortunately it's only four years. I'm very, very excited about tomorrow, and I'm so thankful that I have this opportunity to play for Maryland and the chance to be here for four years and play for coach Williams.”

Vasquez, a native Venezuelan, moved to America to play basketball for nearby Montrose Christian high school, where he played alongside future NBA star Kevin Durant. Williams and his assistant coaches saw the flashes of brilliance that Terps fans have seen regularly in Vasquez while Vasquez was in high school.

“He would make plays as a passer that not a lot of high school guys could make,” Williams said, “and he had the ball handling skills for a guy… he was about 6-5 in high school, that very few guys who are 6-5 have, so that was there. He did play with Durant, so a lot of times he was overshadowed in what he did.”

When Vasquez set foot on campus in 2006, no one was overshadowing him again. He is currently third in points, second in assists, eighth in steals and second in three-pointers made in Maryland history.

“I was talking to my family today,” said Vasquez, “and we don't have enough words to thank the whole institution of Maryland for what they've done for me and my country, my whole country. Kids back at home… all they talk about is Maryland. It's unbelievable where I'm at right now.”

Over the course of his career, Vasquez has had a reputation of a player who lets his emotions get the better of him on the court, which has translated to him playing out of control at times.

This year, that hasn't been a problem, and his play in the ACC so far is the stuff of legends. He's averaging 22.1 points per game (tied with Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney for best in the ACC) and 6.9 assists per game (leading the ACC). Perhaps more impressively, he's in the top four in field goal, three point and free throw percentage in conference play.

With numbers like that, he's launched himself into the discussion for ACC Player of the Year, and it's looking like a two-horse race at this point in the year, his main competition being Duke's point guard, Jon Scheyer.

“Duke's the fourth-ranked team in the country, and if Scheyer or (Duke forward Kyle) Singler get that award, how could you say that was wrong?” Williams said. “I mean, look what they've done for their team. I know in terms of value to the team, I think Greivis has been tremendous for us, what he's done for our team. Player of the Year, I think it's debatable.”

Luckily for voters and for fans, the two will square off tomorrow in Maryland's most important game of the year against the Blue Devils. The game will also be Vasquez's last at home in the friendly, 18,000-seat confines of Comcast Center. His fellow seniors and captains Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes are also playing the final home game of their careers.

“I feel like freshman year was just yesterday,” Milbourne said. “I never really realized how fast the time was going. I'm telling the freshmen on the team now, 'Don't waste any time here because it's going to go by fast, and you're going to wish you had more time.'”

Maryland is already guaranteed to finish at least second in the ACC in the regular season and have clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament, but a win against Duke could mean the Terps, who are considered locks for the NCAA tournament, earn their highest seed since the three seniors' freshman year, when they were seeded fourth in their region.

Regardless of the outcome of senior night, the Terps, who started the season slow with losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin and Villanova in their first eight games, have gotten better as the season progressed, and have made their coach proud.

“They're a special team,” Williams said. “To watch what they've done in terms of their intensity level every day in practice, what I get to see, and how they are every day with each other. Regardless of their record, they're a special team.”

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