Maryland vs. Duke preview: Greivis Vasquez will be sorely missed when Terrapins visit Blue Devils

The men's basketball coach discusses his team and their upcoming game against Duke.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 6:05 PM

Nearly 10 months have passed since Greivis Vasquez last suited up for Maryland, but the point guard who was picked 28th in the NBA draft following a brilliant four seasons in College Park still casts a long shadow over the Terrapins.

In October, Coach Gary Williams was bombarded with questions at the ACC's preseason media gathering about how he planned to replace Vasquez's scoring and leadership on a team with six newcomers. On Sunday, when Maryland travels to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face No. 1 Duke, the outcome will likely turn on how well Williams has done just that.

Maryland (10-4, 0-1) was the last team to beat Duke (14-0, 1-0), now riding a 24-game winning streak. And Vasquez was a major reason why, scoring 20 points in the 79-72 victory at Comcast Center on March 3 that clinched a share of the ACC's regular season title, capped a storybook Senior Day and sent thousands of delirious students storming onto the gym floor.

As Vasquez's his career progressed, he thrived on taking on the toughest foes in the most hostile arenas, despite the longest odds.

That passion for the improbable bared itself the first time Vasquez played Duke as a freshman; he scored 18 points, then a career high, in Maryland's 72-60 home victory on Feb. 11, 2007. Maryland went on to sweep Duke that season, with Vasquez coming within a rebound of a triple-double as the Terrapins toppled Duke at Cameron a few weeks later.

So it was only fitting that Vasquez ended his career at Comcast Center by spurring the upset of fourth-ranked Duke last March in what Dino Gregory, a co-captain of this season's squad, considers the biggest game ever played in the arena.

Said Williams, when asked about Vasquez's performances against Duke, "He was one of those guys - and not everyone is like that - who really in a lot of big games would play his best game against the best teams.

"He grew up with challenges. That became part of his nature - the challenge of moving to the U.S. [from Venezuela]; the challenge of not speaking the language [fluently, at first]. He probably took it personally, which is a great way to motivate yourself: 'These guys think they're better than us!' or 'People think I'm not a first-round draft choice,' which a lot of people didn't."

Vasquez's presence endures months after his college career ended, found in the unlikely form of 6-10 sophomore center Jordan Williams, who leads the Terrapins in scoring (17.6 points per game) and rebounding (11.8 per game) and consistently presents opponents with a major headache in the paint. The sophomore credits much of his development to what he learned from Vasquez, his roommate on road trips during his freshman year.

"He just told me to watch what he was doing - not in an arrogant way, but about things I could do to help lead the team," Williams said of Vasquez. "He was like my big brother. He took me under his wing."

It was a calculated move on Vasquez's part, Gary Williams suspects. Maryland's seniors are allowed to choose their roommates for road games. Vasquez requested the big freshman with even bigger potential.

"Knowing Greivis, he looked at it a little selfishly," Williams said recently. "We needed a big guy that could play, and [Vasquez] was mature enough to see that if we could get Jordan to where he could rebound and play, it would help the team."

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