Vasquez fills UM void early, but how often?

November 27, 2008|By David Steele | David Steele,david.steele@baltsun.com

You can call Greivis Vasquez a lot of things - and for two-plus years, he has been called a lot of things. But you definitely call him self-aware. After another of his patented "No-no-no-yes!" shots to send Maryland's game against Vermont last week into overtime and toward an eventual victory, he was asked what he was thinking as he launched it.

"I said, 'They are either going to love me or they are going to hate me. I don't really care,' " he replied.

That's Vasquez, take him or leave him, and Gary Williams will take him for exactly that reason. Still, as Maryland's season picks up speed tonight at the start of the stacked Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., Vasquez's presence raises a couple of questions:

Do the Terps' fortunes this season rest on a steady diet, even heavy servings, of Vasquez all game, every game? And if so, can it work?

The Maryland players say no to the first question, which is a good sign, but not a surprising one. Tonight's game against fifth-ranked Michigan State will test that notion, as will the entire coming week, including the rest of the competition in Orlando and their return home against Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Soon enough, they'll know whether Vasquez is elevating his teammates, bailing them out or carrying them. Or what combination of these applies.

What we know now is that on a team striving to compensate for shortcomings in experience and frontcourt presence, Vasquez has been doing everything. He leads the Terps in scoring (22.3), rebounding (7.7), assists (5.0), steals (2.7) and minutes (33.7). Much is being asked of him once again, and he's back in the no-win situation he has been in, criticized if he shoots too much or too little, or handles the ball too much or too little, or tries the tough pass or doesn't try it.

Right now, for Maryland, there's no such thing as too much Vasquez. Until the rest of the team catches up and finds out where it fits around him, that's how it will be - and that's how it should be.

Williams knows there are few players he can count on at this point, so if Vasquez's dominating wins games, he's fine with it. "You'd like the balance where you have a lot of weapons you can go to, and we're getting there," he said before the Terps headed south.

That includes last-shot options. Just because Vasquez was the one against Vermont doesn't mean he's the only one every night from now on, he and the players insist. While fellow junior guard Eric Hayes acknowledged, "We know if we're struggling a lot on offense, we'll run a play for him or look for him next time down, because we know he'll come through for us," he also said of the other scoring options, late-game or otherwise, "I think we have three or four guys, or five, who are capable of stepping up."

Said Williams: "You'd like a player taking that shot that wants to take it. Part of taking that shot is understanding that you can miss that shot."

Does that shrink his pool of go-to guys? It's obvious, of course, that Vasquez is in that pool, but is he the whole pool? Again, that remains to be seen. It could become clearer this week as the competition ratchets up.

Maybe we find out whom that extra offense, or playmaking, or rebounding, comes from. Or we find out that it comes from enough players to help Maryland exceed expectations.

Or that it's all Greivis, all the time - which could end up being good enough.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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