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His mind clear, Vasquez returns to form

The list of items that has weighed on the mind of senior guard Greivis Vasquez in recent months is fairly extensive: preparing for the NBA draft, deciding to withdraw from the draft and return for his senior year, heading home to Venezuela to prepare to play for his country’s national team in an international tournament, returning to College Park where expectations of him and his team were elevated and finally, getting off to a slow start to his final collegiate season.

“It’s a lot going on for one guy,” Vasquez said. “I was doing a lot, and it’s a learning process. I take that anytime. I was getting better, and the whole summer I was busy, but I was playing basketball. I love basketball, but at some point when you do too much, it really catches up to you and you have to get a little break. And the break was mentally. I thought I was going through a tough run because I was going through a lot. I was thinking too much in my mind.”

The critical point came Dec. 6 against Villanova in the BB&T Classic. Vasquez shot 3 of 9 from the field and had seven turnovers to match his seven assists. Including that night, the Terrapins had lost three of four games. And in the days that followed, Vasquez decided to let go in an attempt to return to form. He spoke of discarding the close-vested image he had tried to create for himself and renewing the eccentric, boisterous persona he previously had displayed with pride.

In his words, he aimed to be “crazy” again.

Over the past three games, Vasquez has appeared less tense on the court, which has resulted in better production on the stat sheet. Against Eastern Kentucky, Winston-Salem State and Florida Atlantic, Vasquez averaged 24.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 56.0 percent (28 for 50) from the field.

Following Sunday night’s 13-point win over Florida Atlantic – a game in which Vasquez tallied 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists – the player Maryland desperately needed to break out of his offensive slump spoke of the clarity a few strong performances can provide.

“I feel better,” Vasquez said. “I mean, I don't know if I was putting pressure or not, but things weren't really smooth with myself, and obviously I've got to get myself going being as a leader of the team. In the last couple of weeks I feel pretty good, and I'm just going to continue to get better.”

During those first eight games, Vasquez’s shooting percentage hovered barely above the 30-percent mark. Following Sunday night’s game, his shooting percentage sat at 40.6 percent.

“Greivis is intelligent, and he looked at those games,” Coach Gary Williams said of the early portion of the schedule when Vasquez struggled. “Players watch a lot of tape; they do. And I think in his mind he saw some things. It looked like he was almost flat to me in those early games. He played all summer, went into the draft, did all that, played for his country, and all of the sudden here’s the college basketball season. There’s no break.

“Now I think he’s had a chance to look at it and to see where he can get better. I really just believe he’s slowed down a little bit on a couple of things he was trying to do, and when you do that sometimes the court just seems like it opens up and there’s more room to operate. We’re not doing that much differently offensively. I think Greivis has just, you know, really, really picked it up.”

Vasquez admits his shot selection is at times questionable to say the least, but it falls in line with the rest of his personality. He sees openings – for shots, for passes, for opportunities – that others don’t and that sometimes are not actually present. But it is that ingenuity, that high-risk/high-reward mind-set that makes him so maddeningly endearing.

While players such as sophomore guard Sean Mosley, senior guard Eric Hayes and senior forward Landon Milbourne established themselves as more-than-viable scoring options at the season’s outset, Vasquez’s offensive rut – and his apparent emergence from it – re-affirmed the potential value his unique style of play can hold.

“He's shooting good shots, not forcing a lot of things,” junior guard Cliff Tucker said. “He's also getting other players involved. A lot of people probably think he's selfish, but he's getting the team involved and he's shooting good shots. When he plays well, I think everybody else plays well. We’re with him, so hopefully he can keep it up.”

By Steve Yanda  |  December 28, 2009; 8:22 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Comments

"A lot of people probably think he's selfish"

One look at the season stats shows that Vasquez is not selfish. He's averaging over six assists per game, and has almost twice as many assists as any other player on the team.

While Vasquez might have the cocky, selfish persona on the court, his numbers don't back that up.

Posted by: Incredulous2 | December 28, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Has Vasquez really picked up his game? Or is his "turnaround" more related to the fact that the Terps have been playing against the likes of Eastern Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, rather than Villanova and Wisconsin?

We know he can carry the team against top-notch competition, as he did against UNC last year. We also know he can disappear (or, worse yet, really screw up), as he did against Duke last year.

"High risk/high reward" is spot-on for him. Let's hope that his improved performance leads to confidence that in turn leads to good results throughout ACC play. To be ready to play for pay, he needs to show that he can perform at a high level CONSISTENTLY.

Posted by: SmittyATL | December 28, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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