Had it simply been based on accolades, Greivis Vasquez would have won WNST’s 2010 Local Sports Person of the Year award going away.
In 2010, the former Maryland Terrapins guard was named first-team All-ACC, second-team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and the Bob Cousy Award winner — given to the nation’s top point guard. He also helped the Terps clinch a share of the ACC regular season title. When the Memphis Grizzlies selected him with the 28th pick of the NBA Draft in June, Vasquez became the first Terrapin selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since Chris Wilcox and Juan Dixon were picked in 2002.
In terms of on-field (on in this case on-court) accomplishments, no athlete in the state of Maryland reached the heights that the “Vivacious Venezuelan” did in 2010. As Jason Jubb (WNST.net contributor and former “Sunday Morning Blitz” co-host) said, Vasquez “took over this year.”
However, Vasquez’s selection was about more than just on-court ability. There was something about watching Vasquez play in 2010 that made fans in Baltimore and throughout the state heap adoration at a level not seen since Dixon’s graduation.
Sometimes a picture explains just about everything.
It was the passion displayed by Vasquez when he stepped foot on a basketball court that made fans fall in love.
WNST’s Ryan Chell said Vasquez in 2010 was “hated by every other ACC fan and adored by the Terps nation. He put the team on his shoulders.”
Never was it more evident than in the game pictured above.
On March 3, Maryland defeated then No. 4 Duke, 79-72. It was Senior Night at Comcast Center, and Vasquez’s final game was one of the more passionate displays in recent college basketball history.
Vasquez led the way for Maryland with 20 points and 5 assists in the victory, but it was one particular shot that was a total display of “huevos” (a term first labeled by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt) in the final seconds.
With Maryland clinging to a 71-69 advantage over the Blue Devils in the final minute, there was no question Vasquez would take the shot. And despite the shot being an off-balanced, running 12-footer that looked more like a heave than an actual basketball shot, there was really no question whether or not the shot would go in…even if it had to find every piece of the rim before it would fall.
It wasn’t only the Duke game that stood out in 2010 for the young man from Caracas. In fact, Vasquez’s shining moment may well have occurred just one game earlier.
The Terrapins traveled to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech February 27. The game was delayed more than three hours due to a water main break outside Cassell Coliseum. Maybe the anticipation built during the delay made the nature of the performance even greater.
Vasquez posted 41 points, seven rebounds, and six assists en route to 104-100 win over the Hokies in two overtimes.
The two wins would ultimately be the difference for the Terps in sharing the ACC crown.
Watching Vasquez play in 2010 was special.
It’s unlikely that Vasquez could have won a 1-on-1 contest with some of the great all-around players in recent Maryland history. Vasquez’s game wasn’t nearly as polished as someone like Dixon, Steve Francis or even John Gilchrist.
Yet in terms of fortitude, only Dixon could match Vasquez. Vasquez cared deeply about representing the students, the University and the entire state.
“Every time I put on the jersey I did my best and cared about them,” said Vasquez after learning he had won the award. “Those four years at Maryland were a big part in my life, and I eventually want to raise my family around Maryland because it meant very much to me.”
It was the type of passion that rubbed off on everyone around him, including his teammates.
“He was a great teammate,” Maryland guard Adrian Bowie told WNST. “His passion was evident on and off the court. He loved us and we loved him.”
Perhaps that passion was no more evident than in his final act as a Terrapin, a devastating 85-83 defeat to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Trailing by 16 late in the second half and seemingly limping out on a disappointing note, Vasquez took his team on his back a final time, scoring nine of Maryland’s 11 points in the final two minutes. His final basket with six seconds left to give the Terps a one-point lead looked to be another brilliant moment before the Spartans’ Korie Lucious broke the hearts of Terrapin Nation with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, ending Vasquez’s collegiate career and leaving fans wishing for one more chance to watch him.
“It’s a memory all Maryland fans want to forget, but his final game left you wanting more and epitomized what he meant to this program,” said WNST’s Luke Jones. “We throw around words like courage and heart all the time in the sports world, but his passion, his determination was authentic. In those final minutes when he nearly willed the Terps to victory when it seemed all but impossible, it summed him up perfectly. As disappointing as it was for the team, knowing Vasquez would never wear that uniform again was sobering. You didn’t want it to end.”
Vasquez truly was loved by fans both on campus in College Park and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. His talent as a basketball player was appreciated, but his incredible passion made watching him play a joyous experience for Terps fans.
For as much joy as Maryland fans (and WNST contributors) took from watching Vasquez on the court, Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams told WNST he took equally as much joy from coaching him.
“If you pay a lot of money for a ticket, I think you want that guy that you paid the money to see to really work as hard as (in your mind) you would if you were a player,” said Williams after learning Vasquez had won the honor. “And that’s what Greivis gave all those people that bought the tickets. He gave them that player that played they way they would play if they got the chance.”
“I’ve always felt a big part of college basketball is the passion in the game,” added Williams. “I talk to pro players that have played here, played other places, and they really miss that passion that you get at college basketball in big games. Greivis was a part of that. He was nationally known as one of those guys.”
In a fitting twist, the brilliant performance of Vasquez in 2010 came after what would have to be considered the last “low” moment in what had previously been a roller-coaster career.
On Dec. 30, 2009, Vasquez pulled up but missed an important three point shot in transition in the second half of Maryland’s 83-77 loss to William & Mary at Comcast Center. Trailing by seven points, the miss turned into a five-point swing in favor of the Tribe as they would go on to upset the Terps.
The tone for Vasquez in 2010 was set that night. Not by the miss, but by the support shown by Williams despite the crucial miss (and poor decision). When asked about the shot after the game, Williams responded:
“Greivis has won a lot of games for us pulling up for threes. He didn’t make that one. Sure, he missed it, so I wish he would have driven the ball. But if he would have driven the ball and gotten his shot blocked, I’d wished he would have taken the three. It’s the way it works. I want Greivis to keep playing like he’s playing. He’s working hard, he’s trying to help us win. As long as he does that-I’ve had a lot of great players here that take shots once in a while that take shots that you might not like as a coach but that’s part of what makes them great. They have that aggressiveness, they have that no fear of being out there playing which you try to put into a lot of players, but not everybody has that.”
With that support, Vasquez never looked back in 2010.
“I can’t say enough about coach,” Vasquez told WNST. “I think he made a big impact not only in my game but in my life. He mean so much to me not only as my coach, but as a father and a friend, everything I needed. He’s more than a good friend, he’s a mentor. That’s why he’s successful and wins championships and went to the Final Four. I can’t say enough about coach Williams and he will be a special person to me for the rest of my life.”
Vasquez’s personality wasn’t left on the floor. He was as engaging on the campus in College Park and in the community as well.
“Greivis always had time for people,” Williams said. “Sometimes I’d have to get on him because he was trying to do too many things to please too many people. The time he read books in elementary school to kids in Spanish-in a lot of Spanish areas around here-nobody even knew about that stuff. He was just always willing to show up. If they had a shoot-a-thon to raise money for charity on campus, Greivis would come in and try to make one from half court. That’s just the way he was. He was just always willing to be like the other students, which they really appreciated.”
“Greivis had a passion for both basketball and for life that was infectious,” Maryland associate Athletic Director Doug Dull told WNST as well. “He had a confidence and a personality that was magical and unforgettable.”
Watching Greivis Vasquez play basketball in 2010 was a special feeling for Terrapins fans and even those who support other schools but live in the area and found themselves glued to Maryland games.
There were two voting qualifications for the Local Sports Person of the Year honor.
The first was that the person had to play for a professional, college or high school team in the state of Maryland OR represent the state of Maryland in an individual sport.
The second was that the honor was year-specific. The honoree had to be someone for whom 2010 stood out not only in comparison to other sports figures, but also to things they had accomplished themselves in other years.
D1scourse.com writer (and regular contributor to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST in 2010) Patrick Stevens offered a very well thought out explanation as to why Vasquez best met both qualifications.
“Vasquez came to Maryland with maybe his biggest obstacle being the language barrier. That’s almost a bigger impediment for someone who sort of knows a second language and tries to fit in while learning on the fly than someone who just relies on a translator and stays in his comfort zone. The thing was, Vasquez was always supremely at ease on the court, where it was immensely easier for him to express himself than through his many, many words.”
Stevens added, “For as much as people latched onto Vasquez’s rhetoric throughout his college career, he was always better measured through his deeds. It didn’t matter if it was on the floor (a 41-point night at Virginia Tech or helping topple Duke in his last home game) or off (posing for picture after picture well after games ended or simple gestures like handing a pair of shoes to a security guard at the ACC Tournament). Vasquez was the most impactful University of Maryland athlete since Juan Dixon, and never more so than in 2010.”
Vasquez’s often hard-nosed head coach was emotional in summing up his feelings about his former star player.
“The person that he is…is really tremendous. I really miss him. Obviously, you miss his playing ability, but you miss him being around.”
He’s not the only one.
(Vasquez joined Rex Snider, Luke Jones and Glenn Clark on “The Afternoon Drive” Thursday to accept the honor. That interview is available now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)
Final Voting For WNST Local Sports Person of the Year-
1-Greivis Vasquez (20 points)
2-Buck Showalter (19 points)
3-Ray Lewis (10 points)
4-Joe Flacco (7 points)
4-Danny O’Brien (7 points)
6-Anquan Boldin (5 points)
7-John Rallo (4 points)
8-Gary Williams (3 points)
8-Jay Davidson (3 points)
8-John Harbaugh (3 points)
8-Forest Boyce (3 points)
8-Caitlyn McFadden (3 points)
8-Pam Shriver (3 points)
8-Cal Ripken (3 points)
15-Bill Ripken (2 points)
15-Ben’s Cat (horse) (2 points)
17-Pete Caringi (1 point)
17-Kevin Plank (1 point)
17-Reggie Holmes (1 point)
Panel of AM1570 & WNST.net contributors eligible to vote included: Glenn Clark, Drew Forrester, Thyrl Nelson, Rex Snider, Nestor Aparicio, Luke Jones, Ryan Chell, Ashley Bishoff, Pete Kerzel (CSNBaltimore.com writer/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”), Jon Schmidt (WNST Sales), Paul Kopelke (WNST General Manager), Christine Cortezi (WNST sales), Jason Jubb, Mark Suchy, Patrick Stevens (D1scourse.com/regular contributor to “The Morning Reaction”), Sam Angell (WNST.net contributor), Allen McCallum (regular contributor to “The Afternoon Drive), Ed Frankovic, Gary Quill, Derek Arnold (BMoreBirdsNest.com/WNST.net contributor), BJ Appel (WNST.net contributor), Chris Pika, Lawson Lambert (WNST.net contributor), John Rallo (“Shogun Fights”/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”), Jay Trucker (Examiner.com writer/WNST.net contributor), Todd Helmick (NationalChamps.net writer/regular contributor to “The Mobtown Sports Beat”) and Brian Billick (WNST part-owner). Not all contributors eligible submitted ballots.