Memphis Grizzlies take Maryland's Greivis Vasquez with 28th pick

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010

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 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 forecast as a second-round pick, Vasquez said in recent weeks that the feedback he had 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 in College Park.

Vasquez's critics highlighted traits he lacked. Though brimming with passion and a knack for making big plays, he was neither quick nor agile nor 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, won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard and was the ACC player of the year. 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."

For the past six years, Vasquez has embodied the brash confidence fostered on the street basketball courts of 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 donned a suit he's worn many times before. He was joined in New York City by those who have 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 conducted 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, 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."

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