Surrounded by family, friends, his high school coach and Maryland coach Gary Williams, Greivis Vasquez watched as his jersey was hung in the rafters before Maryland's 87-80 win over N.C. State on Sunday.
Greivis Vasquez hugs Maryland coach Gary Williams. Photos by Christopher Blunck.
Before the game, Vasquez met with the media to discuss his legacy at Maryland and this year's team.
What did it feel like?
It was unbelievable, man. It was a dream come true. This is why you work so hard, and I never imagined this. But I want to thank God for this. This is a blessing for me and my family and my whole country. We take a lot of pride and obviously I want to thank the University of Maryland, coach Williams and fans, everybody who supported me. I know sometimes they hated me, but inside of them they really loved me. It’s great, man, it’s unbelievable.
What was that moment like when you hugged coach Williams? It just seemed like a great moment.
I still remember every big win we got, every tough loss we got. We went through a lot, and he’s got a special place in my heart—not only as a coach, but as a person, as a mentor, as a father, somebody that always supported me no matter what.
What did you think when you saw the actual number get unveiled up there?
Incredible, man, incredible. I used to come here early morning, late night and just look up and see all those guys. Now I’m one of them, and I can’t even describe myself right now. I think I can only describe this when maybe 20 or 30 years from now, but like I said I’m thankful.
You saw the team in practice. What kind of things did you tell them?
Just play the game. Sometimes when you get out of college you say to yourself, I wish I would have done this, I wish I would have done that. So I just try to tell them to just do your job, you don’t have to pay no bills like I have to pay bills right now. So why don’t you just focus on basketball and play the game?
They got five more games, they got three games at home I think, and they have a pretty good chance to win all of them. I envision that, but I can’t envision it because I’m not playing no more. My vision right now is play 25 minutes a game in the NBA. So it’s hard, it’s going to be hard for me. But for them it’s going to hard to win five games, but I think they got a good chance to win it. Coach Williams is always going to figure out somehow to get these guys playing. But the guys got to respond. We responded. These guys got to respond.
When you got to Maryland and you saw all those jerseys up there, was that a goal of yours to get yours up there?
You know, it was a goal. In a way it was, but I never took it that serious. I think the reason my career went so well, it was just because I was never trying to play to be the hero, to be somebody that I was not. It was just in me. I have the personality, the emotions, I love the game so much—it was just me playing. It was my culture, it was where I was coming from. I was never trying to disrespect nobody, no fans or nobody else. I was just trying to play the game the way I grew up playing.
Now that my jersey’s up there, it’s just—I can come to any game and come with my kids eventually and then have my kids look at that? That’s just an unbelievable accomplishment for sure. I’m just happy and excited to be back here. I needed this. It’s always good to come back to a place where people really, truly love you. Even you guys.
How’s life in the NBA? Is it everything you thought it would be?
The NBA is just a different level. It’s more a business than anything else. It’s good, man. Now I can provide something for my family. That’s why college kids, they need to understand when you get out of college you got to be on your own. That’s why you have to work so hard, extremely hard, when you’re in college. And don’t take nothing for granted, because you never know. I was a regular, humble kid that was dreaming about making it to the NBA, dreaming about playing in the ACC, some type of Duke-Maryland game, and I got all of that by just working hard, man, and believing. Obviously I believe in God, but I also believe if you work hard it will pay off.
When you first heard that they were going to do this, what popped into your head?
I couldn’t have any opinion about it because I was just like, Wow, that’s big-time. That’s really big-time. I’m speechless. I got nothing to say but to thank a lot of people. This is like winning a Grammy or something, or an Oscar. It’s an unbelievable amount of work I put in with a lot of people that supported me and believed in me.
I still got so much—I feel like I got to prove myself in the NBA. I started from the get-go, just like I’m starting a new career. Nobody knows me. It was so hard to be the face of a program and now I go to the NBA and just start all over. That’s what I always remember, I always remind myself the days that I was here, because I always wanted to prove myself each and everyday to you guys, the fans, to everybody—especially to myself—that I was capable to play basketball at this level.
Part of your legacy here is that you were always a guy who could motivate. You were a fiery player—you got the fans and the players ready to play. Do you sense that might be missing from this year’s team?
Every team is different, you know? I think the toughest thing for this team to handle is that fact that I left with Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. People haven’t got over that. And then people just got to see the team differently. There’s no more Eric Hayes that can hit big threes or control the game. There’s no more Landon Milbourne that can five or six offensive rebounds and get some putbacks or a couple dunks and get the crowd into it. There’s no more Greivis Vasquez taking the team on his shoulders.
It takes time, man. This is a very, very young team. Obviously they got a big-time player in Jordan Williams, but he’s got to learn too. They all got to learn and it’ll come. Obviously we don’t want them to learn all these things too late because it’s going to be too late for us to get to the tournament, but there’s still time. They got five more games. How many wins do they got? Sixteen? Five more games will do it. Then the ACC tournament. I believe they can win five more games. I think we can beat UNC at UNC anytime.
Along those lines, you and Eric played a lot as freshmen. You have two freshmen guards out there now. What similarities do you see?
That’s great, that’s great. That puts a lot of pressure on the upperclassmen. They can’t take it as, ‘Oh, now Coach don’t really care about me.’ They got to take it as, ‘Well if this guy’s a freshman playing hard, now we got to wake up.’
Those guys got to wake up, the seniors got to wake up. It’s hard for them. People got to understand that Adrian and Cliff and Dino, they always played behind stars. It was hard when Eric Hayes was going to come out the game, or Landon Milbourne or myself. So they went through a lot in their college career, they just got to be mature enough to understand where they’re at. Don’t compare yourself with nobody. Just play your game, play the way you play and you’re going to be successful if you work hard. That’s the question—they got to work hard. They got five more games to make this season a special season.