Persona: Greivis Vasquez


At a Glance

Profession: Point guard for New Orleans Hornets
Age: 25
Resides: Warehouse District
Born: Caracas, Venezuela
Family: Mother, Ivis Rodriguez; father, Gregario Vasquez; brother, Ingerman Sanoya
Education: University of Maryland; Major: American Studies
Favorite book: The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership
Favorite movie: Troy
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite music: Salsa, Rap/Hip-Hop
Favorite musician: Lil’ Wayne
Favorite food: Mexican and Cuban
Favorite restaurant: Mother’s Restaurant
Hobby: Watching baseball
Favorite vacation spot: Miami; Los Roques, Venezuela

Even though the New Orleans Hornets were 3-15 going into the game against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 26, a Sunday night, the New Orleans Arena was pretty full. I was lucky enough to be seated by the “BeeZanies,” a group of fans – a spirit group formed by the team – who costumed, bedazzled and all-around led a continuous cheering section for the Hornets.

I was at the New Orleans Arena to watch back-up point guard Greivis Vasquez, one of the newest Hornets, drafted from the Memphis Grizzlies in December 2011. He is one of the few Hispanic players in the NBA and currently the only one from Venezuela (there have been two other Venezuelans to play in the league: Carl Herrera and Oscar Torres).

While I normally watch basketball with a somewhat detached air – meaning I’m watching the whole team – for this article I decided to soley focus on Vasquez. Point guard is an extremely physical position – it involves running, pursuing the ball, passing, and blocking – every minute concentrating on the ball and his fellow players. Vasquez is every inch a point guard.

Vasquez’s career as a NBA basketball player started much differently than most. He came to the United States at 17, speaking no English, to attend high school and play basketball. Vasquez then went to the University of Maryland where he garnered a number of honors: He was a Bob Cousy Award winner, given to the best college point guard in the nation, and he’s the only player in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to record at least 2,000 points (2,171), 750 assists (772) and 600 rebounds, to name just a couple of his accolades. Upon graduation, he was drafted in the first round (28th overall) of the 2010 NBA Draft to the Memphis Grizzlies, with whom he went to a NBA playoff appearance.

And now, at 6-foot-6-inches and 211 pounds, he’s a member of New Orleans’ NBA team. “We are excited to add Greivis Vasquez to our team, organization and community. Greivis is an exciting, big guard that plays with a passion that we hope will thrill our fans at the Hive,” says Hornets general manager Dell Demps.

Vasquez has joined a team that has only six players from last year returning for a roster of 14. It is a rebuilding year, obviously, with the  growing pains associated with it. Vasquez is up for the challenge and has embraced the team, the city and the fans – be sure to check out his Facebook and Twitter accounts. (If you want to check him out on Facebook, be sure to “like” the correct page – there are about 30 pages for him, so I recommend clicking on the community page with more than 25,400 members, as opposed to the “Greivis Vasquez Got Drafted” or the “Greivis Vasquez for President” pages.)

So, next time you’re at a Hornets game, check out No. 21 (Vasquez’s number since college). He is a player definitely on the move with a team that’s constantly evolving. If anything, it will be a wild ride.

What do you like best about New Orleans? The fans are really loyal and terrific. We are a young team that’s still a work in progress and the fans understand that we have a great work ethic, and it keeps them coming to games to support us.

What it’s like to be on the Hornets? To play in the NBA is a dream come true. I’m playing for a great team that’s getting better. I came to the U.S. from Venezuela and, while I miss my country, I love playing in the NBA. Everything happens for a reason.

What do you think you bring to the Hornets? I bring a passion and energy to the team. I want to help put it all together in order to win games. The Hornets are a young team, and we have a hectic season. Because of the lock-out, we haven’t had as much time to practice as a team – you learn in practice and you use that in the game.

What is the most important thing a point guard does? The guard has to be a leader. He has to know how to sacrifice to make sure everyone produces. The guard has to be unselfish to make the team better.

Did you ever play another sport in Venezuela growing up? Baseball, but I was better at basketball. Baseball, to me, is a static sport. I like to be active.

How did you end up moving from Venezuela to the United States? I was playing on the Venezuela National Junior team and represented the country in a couple of tournaments, and the opportunity arose that I could come to the U.S. I went to Montrose Christian School [Rockville, Md.], where I played with Kevin Durant [Oklahoma City Thunder].

Do you get back to Venezuela much? This past summer, with the lock-out, I was able to go home for a month and half. Before, I’ve only been able to spend one, two weeks in Venezuela.

What charities are you involved in? Before moving to New Orleans, I was active with St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tenn., and with Justin’s Quest. [Ed. Note: Justin’s Quest is an organization that raises awareness and funds for the National Tumor Society. The initiative was started by 14-year-old Justin Friedlander, to have various people shoot 63,000 baskets, which is one for every person who’s diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the U.S.]

In New Orleans, I want to get involved in the Hispanic community. There’s a large Hispanic community in New Orleans, and I really want them to come out and support the Hornets – in addition to me, there’s a player from Mexico, Gustavo Ayón, on the team.

What size shoe and sneaker do you wear? Size 13. My sneaker is Under Armour.

Any special workout regimen outside of the Hornets? I lift weights.

Do you have a special diet? I eat well – I cook for myself. Usually I grill chicken or fish, make some vegetables and salad.

Do you miss your mom’s cooking? I miss everything she does!

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