- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greivis Vasquez couldn’t secure a guarantee in the NBA Draft.

Instead, he’s headed back for his senior season at Maryland, where his presence serves as a different sort of promise: the likelihood the Terrapins will remain in contention for a second straight NCAA appearance.

The guard withdrew from the NBA Draft on Monday, just hours before the deadline for underclassmen to decide about turning pro or returning to school. The decision is a boon to the Terps, who are in line to return seven of their top eight scorers from a team that went 21-14 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Vasquez made his decision after consulting with his college (Gary Williams) and high school (Montrose Christian’s Stu Vetter) coaches in the wake of a whirlwind tour of NBA workouts in the past four weeks.

“I think Greivis went in with his head on straight,” Williams said. “He can be a top-20 player for sure if he has a good year and we have a good year. It was important that if he could get that guarantee this year, it would change that situation. What I would tell Greivis is he’s put himself in a position where he goes into next year with people knowing who he is. He’s in a much better situation that he was last year.”

So are the Terps. Vasquez averaged 17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists last season as Maryland made a surprise charge to an NCAA berth. Vasquez was the Terrapins’ top scorer the past two years and has led the team in assists each of his three seasons.

His decision likely will elevate the Terps’ ceiling for next season, especially with the rest of a veteran backcourt returning intact. The same can’t be said for much of the rest of the ACC, which witnessed an exodus of guards through graduation and early departures.

Of the 10 guards voted to the all-conference team last season, only Vasquez (second team) and Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney (third team) are returning.

“I believe we can really be a great team this upcoming season, and I am looking forward to working hard this summer with my teammates to make that happen,” Vasquez said in a statement released by the school. “We had a great finish to the season last year, and if we keep working really hard, we can have a successful season.”

Throughout the process, Vasquez reiterated his desire to improve and gauge his strengths and weaknesses. He made little secret of his desire to play in the NBA, but he also emphatically declared after a workout at Verizon Center last month he would rather return to school than pursue a career in Europe.

Vasquez crisscrossed the country in the past month, participating in several workouts before pulling out of Sunday’s scheduled session in Philadelphia with a tweaked ankle. And while pro scouts lauded his competitiveness, it was clear Vasquez faced a steep climb in a draft littered with quality guards.

Still, Vasquez used the sessions to create an impression for when he is available in the draft after next season.

“I think they have a mindset of who they want before any individual workouts, and it’s hard to change that mindset,” Williams said. “I think it’s a great situation because he’s established what his game is. People at the next level know his style. Greivis is one of the great five-on-five players. The way he passes and the way he sees the court certainly is something valuable. He has another chance to show that next year.”

He’ll do it with a roster that returns almost entirely intact. The Terps lost forward Dave Neal to graduation but add freshmen James Padgett and Jordan Williams to fortify what was an undersized frontcourt a season ago.

Vasquez, though, is a vital component as the team chases its first back-to-back NCAA trips since making 11 in a row between 1994 and 2004.

“We wanted to stay together because we were playing pretty well,” Williams said. “We’re going to be picked either in the top 25 or close to the top 25 in the preseason. All the guys are a part of that. We want to continue what we had at the end.”

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