It’s been six years since Greivis Vasquez left Maryland as the men’s basketball program’s No. 2 all-time scorer. But Maryland’s still very much part of Vasquez.
He’ll be back in College Park this weekend for a charity backpack drive, and he has plans to eventually return to the area on a more permanent basis.
For now, though, Vasquez is heading into a seventh year in the NBA. His second game of next season will be his 400th in the league, and it’ll come in a new place. Vasquez’s career has taken him to Memphis, New Orleans Sacramento, Toronto, Milwaukee and, this season, Brooklyn.
Vasquez skipped the Rio Olympics for his native Venezuela, because he’s not back to full strength yet after ankle injuries robbed him of all but 23 games with the Bucks last season. He’s been working out in New York as he angles for a return to form.
I interviewed Vasquez on Thursday. Here is our conversation, edited lightly for clarity:
Testudo Times: I know you missed Rio and you’re recovering, but how have your offseason and your preparation for the year been?
Greivis Vasquez: I feel much better. I feel healthier. I’m like a few weeks away, so I’m really happy with the fact that I’m in Brooklyn. I’m in New York. It’s gonna be a career year. I love this market. I identify myself — I’m from Caracas, I’m from a major city, so I think things are gonna turn out pretty good for myself this year. Like I said, it’s a career year, so I’m very focused. The main thing is just to be back healthy so I can be myself and go out there and compete and help my team win games. It’s gonna be exciting. It’s gonna be fun, and we’re looking forward to the season.
TT: At this point, you’ve been in the league for a long time, longer than most NBA careers last. You weren’t one of the top draft picks, and you didn’t come to Maryland as a top recruit, but you’ve stuck in the league for a pretty long time. What’s been the trick, the key to the longevity?
GV: Just doing the right thing when nobody’s watching, working hard. Personally, I went through a tough injury, so it’s hard. It’s even harder. That’s why doing the right thing, staying and building a good reputation and good credibility helps you to be in this league. I feel like I’ve got six good years in this league, so the key is just to be healthy. I thank God for giving me this opportunity with Brooklyn, because they’ve got a great medical staff, great performance team, great coaching staff. So I’m gonna be able to manage and be able to be healthy and play to the highest level.
Like I said, it’s on. It’s really on. But I have to be patient. I can’t really come back too early. I just gotta continue with my rehab and continue to get better, so I like where I’m at right now.
TT: While you’re doing all this, have you found yourself still having much time to keep up with what’s going on at Maryland, with their basketball program?
GV: Well, sure. I think Coach Mark Turgeon is doing a great job. The first few years were really tough, but then he turned things around. The transition wasn’t gonna be that easy. I won’t be surprised if the next few years, we win a championship, whether that’s a Big Ten championship or an NCAA championship, to bring that level to our school. I love his work ethic. I love the fact that he’s honest and a real coach, and I can only see good things coming our way, coming for our school.
TT: This year, Maryland’s actually playing at Barclays, the Nets’ arena. You have a road trip around then, but any plans to try to get there?
GV: Yeah, most likely I will. Since I’m closer, I’m probably gonna be supporting [more in person this year]. I remember the game last year when we played Georgetown at home and we won the game. It’s always good when you go back and see your roots and the people that helped you to be where I’m at. I’m always gonna be supportive of them, and actually trying to coach or trying to be there. But that’s down the road.
TT: You walked into the arena for that Georgetown game, and it felt like the place got louder than it had been all night, and then Maryland went on a run and won. Were you the secret there?
GV: I felt like I helped. But the environment was unbelievable, man. It was so good, because I was going through a tough time myself. I needed to recharge myself, and going home, going back to where I played so many games, it’s something important to me. I’m gonna be going back more often and hanging out with the guys, hanging out with the coaches and talk to them more often and support. I think we’ve gotta support that generation, so we can have more players from Maryland get to the NBA and have great careers.
TT: You think you’ll give Maryland a call after your career and, if you get the chance, you’d be interested in doing some kind of coaching there?
GV: Yeah. I’ll take my chances. I think eventually. Not right now. I think down the road, having so much time, spending so much time with the game, it gives you so much knowledge. But I’m not there yet. Right now, I wanna see Turgeon and the program winning a championship for us.
TT: You’ve mentioned, with your backpack drive and the reception you’ve gotten, how much Maryland means to you. How do you think Maryland has changed your post-grad life – not a a basketball player, but just as a guy as you go through life?
GV: It changed my whole life, my whole perspective, my whole view. It made me not only a better human being, a better friend, a better son, a better cousin, a better teammate and business guy and a CEO. I’m so thankful. Maryland gave me a lot – more than I deserve, and I thank God for that.
One thing I can tell the kids is, "Don’t waste your time in college. Just take advantage. This is the best time of your life. Have fun, but at the same time, take care of school, and work hard." Because working hard pays off. I’m living the dream right now, playing in the best league in the world in the Big Apple, in New York. Right now, while I’m talking to you, I can see the whole city from where I’m from in the practice facility.
That’s anybody’s dream, but you’ve gotta work hard.