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The Iron Will Of Greivis Vasquez

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Vasquez speaks a language of hope, dreams and possibilities for winning

Photo: Frank Aymami

New Orleanians know the hard-learnt secret that the best thing in sports—and life—is not always the winning, but the investment and the shared devotion with fellow fans who want something more in life and seek it in the exuberance of citizens of a special place all screaming and willing a final result into existence. Rarely in pro basketball does a player come along who can similarly channel that passion on the floor; one who can carry the energy of the fans’ desires to the basket. With Greivis Vasquez, the Hornets have such a player in their midst now and he has given reason to the local fans to come to the arena and pour their hearts out for a cause much bigger than the NBA itself.

A Venezuelan, Vasquez knows and speaks with his heart about the true passion that comes with having come from such a special place. “Venezuela is a beautiful country, my whole country is really excited that I am playing for the Hornets. That’s thirty million people who are behind New Orleans.” Vasquez speaks a language of hope, dreams and possibilities for winning and a desire to triumph that has not been echoed in the halls of the arena in quite the same way perhaps since the team’s arrival.

In Vasquez, Hornets fans have someone who has fought through adversity—much like what the Hornets are going through now. After some initial rocky years at the established Maryland program and while confronting language barriers and the social discomfort associated with being in a foreign land, he ultimately rose to become a fan favorite. After his senior year, Vasquez won the 2010 Cousy Award for having been the best college point guard in the nation.

He led Maryland to the mountain top, sharing the ACC title with perennial behemoth Duke, and was later narrowly defeated in the NCAA tourney by eventual Final Four participant Michigan State. The win over Duke was pure Vasquez and in a die-hard manner he seized it by sheer force of will and skill. With just over 30 seconds remaining, Vasquez took the ball from deep in the backcourt, split the seam through the key and hit a running bank shot that shocked the eventual national champion and threw the fans into absolute pandemonium. The fact that the shot seemed so impossible to make stood out, but most importantly, it showed a complete lack of fear from a player willing to take a chance, coupled with passion and an iron will to win.

Traded in exchange for former first-round pick Quincy Poindexter just before Christmas, Vasquez took the trade as the sign of a true gift. “Since then it has been a really good opportunity to develop not only as a player but as a person too,” said Vasquez. “The good thing about this team—even though we have a losing record—is that we are young and the future looks bright. A lot of teams that have a losing record like we have right now don’t play as hard and they don’t put in the work. We do, and eventually it’s going to pay off. We’re going through some pain, we don’t want to lose and we want to represent the city the right way and win games, but sometimes you have to go through tough times to figure some things out and have success in life. I’m a winner and I love winning and I will do whatever it takes, play any role, I want to win and I want to show the fans and coaches I want to do my best whether it means scoring or getting my teammates around me better.”

Vasquez said his college coach, Gary Williams, compared him to Pete Maravich. He can run the floor as the one-guard or shoot the ball as a two-guard, brings a terrifically effective floater, an increasingly improving middle range jumper, and is known for spectacular no-look passes. “The best thing about my game is helping my teammates around me play better,” said Vazquez. He often does this with his excellent passing, but he also brings the occasional show-time pass like Maravich. “Every now and then [it’s] just to get the crowd going so that everyone gets involved,” he said. Winning, will, passion and hard work are predominant in Vasquez’s attitude. His capacity for bringing energy, his devotion to his teammates and the occasional on-court flair make him the very kind of player Hornets fans should be pulling for to become a permanent fixture in the city’s future basketball landscape.

-PAUL WEGMANN