Maryland hangs Greivis Vasquez jersey
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)
Greivis Vasquez had his jersey No. 21 hung from the rafters of Maryland's home arena Sunday, a fitting tribute to the feisty guard who helped the Terrapins reach the NCAA tournament in three of his four seasons.
Now a rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies, Vasquez was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year in 2009-10. The Venezuela native is the only player in ACC history to have at least 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds.
His enthusiastic play was just as meaningful to the Terps. Whether he was flapping his arms, yelling at the top of his lungs or drilling a shot from beyond the 3-point line, Vasquez knew how to raise the spirit of his teammates and the fans at Comcast Center.
''He did things you really can't teach,'' coach Gary Williams said of Vasquez before the ceremony, which took place prior to Maryland's game against North Carolina State.
Although he's now in the pros, Vasquez still has a knack for firing up a Maryland crowd.
Wearing a leather jacket, a button-down shirt and jeans, Vasquez emerged from the tunnel around 30 minutes before game time. The fans at the entrance gave him a standing ovation, and various alumni affectionately wrapped their arms around the 24-year-old.
After a tape highlighting Vasquez's career at Maryland was displayed, Vasquez and Williams hugged at the baseline. Vasquez then walked to midcourt with his father on one side and his mother on the other.
As those in the soldout arena stood and cheered, a red banner with the name VASQUEZ and 21 underneath was unfurled from the ceiling.
''It was unbelievable. It was a dream come true,'' Vasquez said later. ''This is why you work so hard. I never imagined this.''
Maryland does not retire numbers, but Vasquez is now one of only 17 members of the men's program to have his name draped from the Comcast Center ceiling.
''I used to come here early morning, late at night, and I used to look up and see all those guys and now I'm one of them,'' Vasquez said. ''I can't even describe (how I feel) right now. Maybe 20 or 30 years from now.''
With the Grizzlies, Vasquez receives spotty playing time and is averaging 3.4 points and 12.7 minutes a game.
At Maryland, he rarely had a seat and finished as the No. 2 scorer in school history behind Juan Dixon. He skipped the NBA All-Star weekend to attend this ceremony and had absolutely no regrets.
''This is the place where I wanted to be,'' he said. ''Nothing will ever replace Maryland. Even if I play in the NBA for 12 years and I make all this money, I still have to come back here and be involved.''
It's safe to say Vasquez will always be welcome, and almost certainly won't ever have to pay for a ticket.
''Now that my jersey is up there, it's I can come to any game, come with my kids eventually and have my kids looking at that,'' he said. ''I needed this. It's always good to come back to a place where people truly love you.''