Memphis Grizzlies select Greivis Vasquez with No. 28 overall pick in NBA draft
With a yell and an emphatic fist pump, former Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez celebrated NBA Commissioner David Stern’s announcement Thursday night that the Memphis Grizzlies had selected Vasquez with the 28th overall pick in the league’s 2010 draft.
Vasquez, the 2010 ACC player of the year, became the first Terrapin to be chosen in the first round of the NBA draft since Chris Wilcox (No. 8) and Juan Dixon (No. 17) in 2002. The former Montrose Christian star also became the third Venezuelan ever to join an NBA roster.
Though widely forecasted as a second-round pick, Vasquez said in recent weeks that the feedback he’d received from multiple teams led him to believe he’d performed well enough in pre-draft workouts to be a first-round selection. The Grizzlies fulfilled his premonition.
Thursday night served as validation for an unyielding mind-set that carried Vasquez from the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela to the ACC, where he led Maryland to NCAA tournament berths in three of his four years at College Park.
Vasquez’s critics – which at times were abundant – highlighted the traits he lacked. Though brimming with passion and a knack for making big plays, he was not quick or agile or tranquil. Vasquez used those evaluations as fuel to improve his game and his stock.
When he could not secure a guarantee that he would be selected in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft, Vasquez withdrew and returned to Maryland for his senior season. He became the second most prolific scorer in Terrapins history and won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard. He answered any remaining questions during pre-draft workouts over the past two months.
“I did my part,” Vasquez said Thursday afternoon. “I came back to school to get my degree and to get better as a player. I took every workout as a job interview, and I was very professional.”
Vasquez maintained faith throughout the past two years that he one day would play in the NBA, a belief buoyed by the hopes of 28 million people in his native country that followed his every progression in the U.S. Two Venezuelans – Oscar Torres and Carl Herrera – previously had played professional basketball in America.
Vasquez’s countrymen needed him – for the sake of basketball in a land where soccer and baseball rank supreme – to be their third son to make it that far.
Last August, Leonardo Rodriguez, who founded the Venezuelan professional basketball league in 1974, asked a visitor if Vasquez would play in the NBA. When told that, yes, Vasquez had a chance to do so, Rodriguez folded his hands as if to pray and looked toward the sky.
“Thank you,” he said.
For the past six years, Vasquez has embodied the brash confidence fostered on the street basketball courts in Caracas. Flashiness defined his style of play and personality.
So when deciding what to wear on the biggest night of his life, Vasquez considered sporting an extravagant suit crafted by renowned fashion designer and fellow Venezuelan Carolina Herrera.
Instead, Vasquez opted for a more muted look and adorned a suit he’s worn many times before. Reliability always has been paramount to Vasquez, which was why he was joined in New York City by those who’ve continually supported him throughout his journey. His mother, father and older brother flew in from Caracas. His former coach at Montrose Christian drove up from Rockville.
And then there was his suit – grey with a red tie and white shirt. Vasquez felt a deep connection to that, too. He said he’d bought it last year when he was going through the NBA draft process. This spring, he said he wore it to nearly every interview he participated in with NBA personnel.
“He carried me the whole year,” Vasquez said, referring to his suit, “so I don’t see why I need to be all flashy or anything like that. I want to keep it humble. I want my suit to enjoy the moment with me.”
When Stern called Vasquez’s name just after 10 p.m. Thursday night, emotion overtook the 6-foot-6 point guard. Vasquez made his way to the stage at Madison Square Garden and embraced Stern in a long bear hug.
“This,” Vasquez said, “is only the beginning.”
June 24, 2010; 11:21 PM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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