The year was 2006 and the Maryland Terrapins were in a battle at Assembly Hall against Illinois in the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge and they tried to find some way to make a run and separate from the Illini. The Terps got precisely what they were looking for when a brash, unheralded, Venezuelan freshman came off the bench to score 17 points, play tremendous defense and provide the Terps with the spark they needed to win the game in one of the most hostile road environments. Little did Terp fans know that this would be the start of one of the greatest career for a player in Terps history and that one day he would pass the great Len Bias and have a chance to become the program's all time leading scorer. That game made fans know the name Greivis Vasquez, and four years later that name is found all over the Terps record books. Not bad for a guy formerly known as Kevin Durant's high school teammate.
From that game in his freshman season, to his ACC Player of the Year campaign this year, Greivis Vasquez's career has been a roller coaster ride, that wasn't always smooth. Sophomore year, in the midst of a season that resulted in an N.I.T trip for the Terps, Vasquez was often criticized for his decision making and had some run ins with the Terp faithful, which didn't exactly endear him to Terp fans. Many questioned if he had the capability to make smart decisions, and Terps fans feared N.I.T trips would be the norm with Vasquez at the helm. Since then, Vasquez has done nothing but carry the Terps on his back, leading them to the NCAA Tournament second round last year, an ACC regular season championship this season, and has clearly become a fan favorite among all Terp fans. Those days of poor decision making and spats with the home fans are a distant memory, as now, Vasquez is known for being a tremendous leader and one of the greatest Terps in the history of the program. What a difference two years makes.
The thing that endears people the most to Vasquez is the fact that he is the on court version of Gary Williams, often wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Vasquez embodies everything his coach and the program under Gary Williams has stood for the past decade and his maturation is very similar to that of Juan Dixon. Despite the success of the program this decade, Maryland fans still feel a lack of respect, and Greivis Vasquez is the poster boy for that same feeling. Often told he can't shoot, isn't athletic enough and that he would be nothing more than an average college player, Vasquez has played his entire career with a chip on his shoulder culminating with him becoming just the 5th Terp to be named ACC Player of the Year in a season, and landing the Terps a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. This season has been special for Vasquez and he has helped put the Maryland program back where it should be, as one of the best in the ACC. Most of all, he has made fans forget the seasons of being on the tournament bubble and the two trips to the N.IT in three years since after winning the National Title in 2002.
The difference between good players and great players is usually a signature moment that remains with fans for the rest of their life. There a lot of them in Maryland history but few as impressive as the three that Vasquez has provided in each of the last two seasons. No Terps fan will ever forget the game on a Saturday afternoon that Greivis Vasquez scored 35 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dropped 10 assists in route to an upset over then number three and eventual national champion, North Carolina. That game made Vasquez just the second Terp to record a triple double and is the game that many believe defined his career. It was the game that turned Greivis Vasquez from a good player to a great one, but he wasn't done yet. This season Vasquez had two more performances that will remain with Terp fans for the rest of their life. In a dog fight at Cassel Coliseum, a place that no visiting team had won this season, Vasquez scored 33 points in the second half and the over times en route to a 41 point game and the first home loss for Virginia Tech. A few weeks later, Vasquez, one-upped himself and had the performance many believe landed him ACC Player of the Year. In prime time, on a Wednesday night, with a national audience watching and in his last game in front of the Terp faithful, Greivis Vasquez scored 11 of his 20 points in the final five minutes to lead the Terps to a victory of hated Duke. This was the first time the Terps had beaten the Blue Devils in the last six meetings and was just another performance that added to the legacy of Greivis Vasquez.
Walking into the Comcast Center and looking up into the rafters gives me and every other Terp fans chills. From the Final Four, National Championship and numerous tournament banners to the jersey numbers of the likes of Len Bias, Tom McMillen, Juan Dixon and John Lucas, the history of Maryland Terrapin basketball is right there for everyone to see. There is a story behind every players jersey in the rafters and makes people in their mid 20's like myself, regret that we never got see some of the greats. Thankfully we now have a player to talk about with our children and grandchildren and stories to tell them. Next year, the number 21 will fly in the rafters along with the number of other Maryland greats and will never again be worn on the court by any Terp, something that four years ago, few, if any thought would happen.
The last four years have been a roller coaster of emotion for Terps fan, and 2010 has been special no matter when it comes to an end. Hard to believe that it was a brash, Venezuelan that would take the program back to prominence. Hard to believe that the second greatest scorer in the history of the program, was a little recruited, un-athletic guard, who is was known more for his famous high school teammate then his own basketball prowess.
Greivis Vasquez will live in Maryland Basketball lure and the hearts of Terps fans forever. No matter where his basketball career and life take him from here on out he will always be talked about in College Park Maryland. No matter how many players come through the Comcast Center or how many big games are played there, stories will always be told, and performances will be remembered, every time the eyes of Terps fans gaze up into the rafters and see the number 21.
So from myself and the rest of Terp nation I just want to say thanks for the memories, Greivis, it has been a pleasure watching you these four years.