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Sixth Sense
Luke Winn
December 11, 2006
Flashy freshman guard Greivis Vasquez has an uncanny ability to come off the bench--and to the rescue--for surging Maryland
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December 11, 2006

Sixth Sense

Flashy freshman guard Greivis Vasquez has an uncanny ability to come off the bench--and to the rescue--for surging Maryland

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It was 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 away.

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.

Maryland fans 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."

Vasquez's 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.

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