Terrapins' Young Guards Get Straight to the Point

D.J. Strawberry
D.J. Strawberry twists in two of his 19 points as Maryland advances to the semifinals of the 2K College Hoops Classic. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006

They are both freshmen, but that is where any similarity ends between Maryland Coach Gary Williams's two point guards this season. The first, from Caracas, Venezuela, is 6 feet 5 and 195 pounds of knees and elbows, a player whose on-court philosophy regarding a pure point guard seems to be, 'Why pass if I can score myself?' The other, from Dumfries, is a 6-3 point guard who is never in a hurry, always in control.

Both freshmen, Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, played well last night, displaying demeanors that belied their experience, as the Terrapins overwhelmed Vermont, 81-63, before a half-full Comcast Center in the quarterfinals of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.

Mike Jones and D.J. Strawberry led Maryland with 19 points apiece as the Terrapins advanced to play Nov. 16 in Madison Square Garden, likely against St. John's.

The Catamounts hung with Maryland (2-0) for much of the first half, even holding a one-point lead after 10 minutes. But Maryland smothered Vermont with its athleticism and ended any drama in the first five minutes of the second half with an 11-3 run that made it 47-30.

At no point was Maryland's athletic superiority more apparent than on its 47th point, when Strawberry laid a pass back to James Gist on a fast break. Gist snatched the ball at the lane's third block as Kyle Cieplicki shifted over to stop him, like a gnat trying to halt a windshield. Gist slammed the ball through the hoop and onto Cieplicki, then stood over him and waved his arms as Vermont turned over the inbounds pass.

So the result, really, was never in question, but the night served as the next step in grooming the freshman point guards, who may spend the season sharing the role while also sharing the court at times.

Despite their differences, the two became fast friends when they met two summers ago on the AAU circuit. As Greivis decided between Maryland and Gonzaga, Hayes's commitment to Maryland helped persuade him to become a Terp. They room together, eat together, "basically do everything together," Vasquez said.

Said Williams: "Both of them are able to help each other out. That is the toughest position to play as a freshman. They talk a lot to each other."

Hayes started last night, as he did in the Terps' opener, but he once again split time with Vasquez. He entered five minutes into the game, eschewing a pass and driving to the basket on his first possession at point guard, and exited 10 minutes later, slapping teammates' hands violently and shouting as Hayes walked quietly onto the court.

In between, Vazquez provided frenetic energy and displayed a laissez faire approach to passing. He snatched inbounds passes and charged up the floor, his oversized jersey billowing behind him as if trying to keep up. He launched a 30-foot three-point attempt off the back rim with 34 seconds left on the shot clock. He threw his body at the hoop with abandon, scooping in a nifty finger roll once. He hoisted seven shots in the first half, tied for Maryland's first-half high, and likely collected as many floor burns while scoring five points. He finished with nine on 3-of-9 shooting.

"Greivis is a flashy type dude," Strawberry said. "He likes to do what he does; he likes to do his thing on the court. He likes to get to the bucket, do his little international thing. And Eric is just quiet. He's just out there poised. They're both good."

Maryland used a similar rotation in the second half with its bipolar point guards, Vazquez toning down his play somewhat after halftime. The pair also played together at points, Hayes handling the point guard chores during those spans. The chemistry they forged hanging out in their dorm materializes during these moments, too.

"When we play together, it's really easy for me to get my game going," Vasquez said. "Because I know he knows what I'm thinking, and I know what he's thinking."

Hayes showed little of Vazquez's flair, but ran the offense with a steady hand and distributed passes like a veteran. He had eight assists and turned over the ball three times, but scored no points and didn't even attempt a shot in the second half.

"Our games complement each other pretty well," Hayes said. "He's more of a fast-paced, scoring kind of guy. I'm more looking for guys.

"We're different. We're complete opposites. He's more outgoing, I'm kind of to myself. It kind of shows on the court."


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