Greivis "The General" Vasquez, Maryland's brash, 6-6 do-everything point guard, has been called a lot of things on his visits to Tobacco Road and throughout the highly charged ACC.
Now they'll have to add Player of the Year and All-American.
Vasquez is polishing his basketball resume much in the way he plays - as a showman. He took the coveted honor March 9 as ACC Player of the Year, leading the Terps to a 23-7 record season's record so far for a share of the conference regular season title with Duke at 13-3 and a Top 20 national ranking.
Getting 39 of 53 votes, he is the first Maryland player since Juan Dixon in 2002 to be so honored. His coattails also meant that his coach, Gary Williams, would be named ACC Coach of The Year and teammate center Jordan Williams would get a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Averaging 19.6 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds a game this season, after leading the Terps in all three categories the year before as a junior, Vasquez takes a place alongside James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), Evan Turner (Ohio State) and John Wall (Kentucky) as Sporting News magazine first-team All-Americans.
Watch him play, and you know the Caracas, Venezuela, native simply is a hoot. His four years with Terps have been marked by letting the fans, media and opponents have it - with taunts, chest pounding and, of course, placing his hand to his ear in the best tradition of Reggie Miller in Madison Square Garden as if to implore rival fans to boo that much louder. And the fans give it right back to Vasquez, jeering his every move in enemy field houses in the ACC. "Where's your green card?" fans have yelled out at Florida State and NC State. Duke fans, meantime, put the needle to him by yelling their insults in Spanish.
But the heckling hasn't stopped Vasquez, who starred in high school at Montrose Christian in Rockville, MD alongside Kevin Durant, now of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since coming to College Park, Vasquez has never stopped talking. To his credit, he vociferously defended his coach when critics were panning Williams for mediocre teams and recruiting during the middle and late 2000s. And in the 2009 NCAAs, to his detriment, he challenged the credentials of opponent Memphis before the Terps were blown out, saying the Tigers would struggle in the mighty ACC.
Vasquez gets to burnish his brand further tomorrow when the Terps open ACC tournament play in Greensboro, NC, against the winner of today's North Carolina-Georgia Tech contest.
Maryland is a lock for the 2010 version of March Madness and could get to a 3 or 4 seed with a good showing in the ACC tournament.
Considered one of the most productive and versatile guards in the country, according to DraftExpress.com, a site that chronicles the exploits of NBA draft prospects, what's left for Vasquez in his senior season, short of a national championship run, is his opportunity to play at the next level. Certainly he has the credentials. Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Tyler Hansbrough, Johnny Dawkins, Len Bias are just five of the many dominant ACC players that have come down the pike over the years, yet it is only Vasquez to record at least 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds during his career.
But Vasquez also is known for his unpredictability - a perception that likely kept in college for his senior season after exploring his draft options in 2009. "Vasquez's consistency, or lack thereof, will be the deciding factor ... where his draft stock sits heading into the summer," the DraftExpress.com site opined in a March 2009 analysis.
One thing is for sure, Gary Williams and the Terps programs have never had a player like Vasquez, now Maryland's third all-time leading scorer behind Dixon.
You could see why the likes of recent alumni Dixon, Steve Francis and Joe Smith were so good. They all were superb athletes, deadeye shooters with God-given natural talent. And back in the day, Lefty Driesell's day in College Park, there was John Lucas, Albert King, Len Elmore, Adrian Branch and Tom McMillen.
Vasquez is different than all of them, bringing a set of liabilities as potent as his attributes - a slasher, a scorer not a shooter, a bit slow a foot, an often turnover-prone ball handler. But like a Dixon, his basketball instincts are unrivaled and the ball is his when the game is on the line.
Coming into the NBA, questions do remain for Vasquez. You know he can score. You know he can pass the ball. You know he can rebound. You know he is fearless. You know he backs up all of the talk more times than not. You know he is as creative a player in college basketball the past few years. But as a big 6-6 guard, can he stay with Kobe, LeBron and D-Wade on the other side of the ball.
DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at DMA722Sports@gmail.com
Photos: Greivis Vasquez, 2009 NCAA tournament, AP; Gary Willams and Vasquez, Washington Post