Maryland's Vasquez: 'I have to be crazy'

Senior guard thinks return to old ways will end slump

December 12, 2009|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK — - In a season when the Maryland basketball team has discovered a scorer in sophomore guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances) and a rebounder in freshman center Jordan Williams, the Terrapins are still looking for the player who led them in both categories - as well as assists - last season.

Senior guard Greivis Vasquez has played in all eight games this season for Maryland (5-3), but which player shows up today at Comcast Center to play Eastern Kentucky remains in question.

Will it be the player who after leading the Terps in turmoil early in his junior year became the first in school history to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists? That was the player whose triple double in an upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina was the first by a Terp in more than two decades.

Or will it be the player who has seemingly been in a funk since coming back for his senior year after briefly flirting with turning pro? That is a player whose production has been at its lowest since he was a freshman and whose personality has morphed more into a wallflower than wild man.

Even Vasquez isn't sure which will show for a team that has lost three of four - each defeat to a nationally ranked opponent - since its 4-0 start. But the 6-foot-6 guard who was second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference the past two seasons promises he will get out of his early-season slump.

"The whole problem is mental," he said Friday while being made available to the media for the first time in three weeks. "I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I've got to get out of that. It's hurting my team. In a way, it's very selfish 'cause we need to win basketball games."

With the talent surrounding Vasquez much better than it was last season, he understands he doesn't have to score or rebound as he did a year ago. But Vasquez knows his numbers this season have been unsettling: shooting a disastrous 30-for-93 from the field, including 9-for-32 on 3-point attempts; only one game in double-digit assists, that coming when he had 13 in the season opener; nearly as many turnovers (18) as assists (21) the past four games.

"I think I have great teammates around me now. I have to take advantage of that," Vasquez said. "I can't feel sorry about myself, I can't be here crying. I have to talk trash, I have to be myself. I have to be crazy."

Asked whether NBA executives and scouts told him to curtail his on-court theatrics when he went to a couple of tryout camps last spring, Vasquez said, "They love my passion; that's what I haven't been playing with.

"For some reason, I just wanted to change a little bit, just play the game instead of wasting energy. It's not working. It's not me. I have to go back to playing with a lot of energy and leading by example. In order for us to win big games, I'm going to have to step up."

Vasquez acknowledges that he has passed up easy, open shots and forced bad ones. The biggest issue in the team's most recent defeat - a 95-86 loss Sunday to No. 3 Villanova at Verizon Center - was foul trouble. He finished with 12 points, seven assists and seven turnovers in 30 minutes.

"Just let the game come to me," Vasquez said. "I'm watching the shots I took last year; I made some tough shots. I'm going to take questionable shots at times; that's who I am."

Maryland coach Gary Williams, who has always gone out of his way to defend Vasquez, believes the senior guard will break out of his slump and become the "national-level player" he has been at times the past two seasons.

"I think Greivis is proven, he's a great player," Williams said Friday. "He just needs one game to break out. I'm very confident in Greivis and his ability. ... This can be a situation where [Dino Gregory's] return [from suspension today] can help Greivis."

Vasquez said part of his problem this season has been adjusting to a different style of play. Unlike Dave Neal or James Gist, Jordan Williams and fellow freshman James Padgett plant themselves in the lane, thus limiting Vasquez's forays to the basket.

While Gary Williams doesn't buy that theory completely - "It didn't bother Juan Dixon when Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox were in the lane," the coach said - he knows there is more of a comfort level between Vasquez and junior forward Gregory (Mount St. Joseph), who will be reinstated today after missing the first eight games for violating an unspecified team rule.

In the end, Vasquez blames himself for his slow start and the team's uneven play.

"I'm really angry at myself," Vasquez said. "I work too hard, I let so many things bother me. We lost three games we should have won. It was all because you're supposed to be the best player and the leader of the team."

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