Love him or hate him, Terps' Vasquez produces

February 18, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

You love how he plays and hate how he plays.

You thrill to the rainbow jumpers and the fearless drives to the hole and the no-look passes. And you want to strangle him when he tries to force the ball inside or puts up a crazy shot with defenders draped all over him, as happens all too frequently.

Oh, yeah, if you're a Maryland basketball fan, Greivis Vasquez drives you nuts.

And maybe because of this, you end up over-analyzing everything about him.

What's with the hair? One minute he's got a tight fade going, the next minute he's wearing some kind of wild rooster-tail 'do like he did Wednesday in the Terps 67-58 win over North Carolina State.

And what about that goofy shimmy dance he does after a big shot? That looks dangerous. Do the Terps have a chiropractor on stand-by?

But no matter how complicated your feelings about the guy, the bottom line is this: Vasquez is having another great season for Maryland and winding down what has been, by any measurement, a terrific college career.

Last year, the senior guard became the first Terp ever to lead the team in points (averaging 17.5), rebounds (5.4) and assists (5) in a season and was voted second-team All-ACC for the second year in a row.

This year he's averaging nearly 19 points a game and practically carrying the offense on his back -- his 26 points against the Wolfpack came just two nights after he poured in a season-high-tying 30 in Maryland's 85-66 rout of Virginia.

Which brings us, naturally enough, to the big question: how does he rank with the all-time greats who played at Maryland?

Does he belong up there with the likes of John Lucas and Albert King, Len Bias and Walt Williams, Joe Smith and Juan Dixon?

Or is he one of the second-tier Terps greats, bunched in with players like Greg Manning and Adrian Branch and Keith Booth, which is not exactly shabby company, either?

I put the question to Gary Williams the other day. Williams, now in his 21st season coaching the Terps, didn't answer directly, although he left no doubt as to how he feels about Vasquez.

"Every great player I've had is a great competitor," Williams said. "That has to be there before you start talking talent or shooting or anything like that. Greivis is certainly like that.

"He just hates to lose, which is a great trait for any athlete. In other words, losing has got to hurt worse than winning feels good when you do win.

"As to where he fits in [all-time]," Williams continued, "I'd rather wait on that 'til the end of the season, see where that goes. There've been some great players that I've coached and Lefty Driesell coached ... but I think Greivis will be in that category, certainly, before he leaves here."

Keith Cavanaugh of the Terrapin Times has covered Maryland basketball recruiting for 25 years and watched the Terps for years before that. He wasn't at all shy about where he ranks Vazquez in the pantheon of Terps greats.

"Right now, I put him in the top 15," Cavanaugh said. "Ability-wise, he's not going to be there. On sheer numbers, he will be."

In no particular order, Cavanaugh lists his 10 greatest all-time Terps as: Len Bias, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, Walt Williams, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, Juan Dixon, Brad Davis and Joe Smith.

He puts Vasquez in the next five, along with Adrian Branch, Greg Manning, Ernie Graham and Mo Howard.

(For the record, yes, Cavanaugh has heard of Steve Francis, the All-American who played for Maryland in 1999 and went on to an uneven NBA career.

(But Francis didn't make the list because he was in College Park for only one year. If you just had a cup of coffee there, you don't make the list. Hey, it's not my rule. It's Cavanaugh's.)

Vasquez, says Cavanaugh, "is one of the more mercurial, charismatic players, both loved and hated, in Maryland history. He's been a prolific producer."

But Cavanaugh said one reason Vasquez doesn't make his Top 10 list is that Vasquez has yet to lead Maryland beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm not blaming him for that by any means," Cavanaugh said. "It's just another criterion.

"He's not a dominant, athletic player," he said. "He's just a crafty, strong-willed producer anywhere on the floor."

And he plays with a burning passion that coaches and fans love to see.

That's why, even with all the crazy shots and out-of-control play at times, Vasquez has been a joy to watch for four years.

Me, I put him up there with the best that ever played at Maryland, and I've been watching Terps basketball for 29 years.

He could lose that shimmy dance, though. That wouldn't be missed at all.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

A previous version of this article misidentified Vasquez's recent 30-point performance as a career high. It tied his season high. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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