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Freshman guards give Terps a lift
Maryland coach Gary Williams has entrusted his team to a pair
DON WRIGHT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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C OLLEGE PARK, Md.--If it hadn't worked out pretty well for him before, Gary Williams might be a little nervous about putting his basketball team in the hands of a freshman point guard.
And if one teenage ball-handler can make it, two must be twice as good--right?
The early returns on Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez have been relatively encouraging. One of the two has started every game at the point for the Terrapins (16-5), and they've seen a lot of time on the floor together.
Neither Hayes nor Vasquez is yet ready to make anyone forget about Steve Blake, who was handed the keys upon his arrival in 1999 and helped Maryland win the 2002 national title.
But they've been a solid tandem for a team that floundered last season in a failed experiment with D.J. Strawberry at the point.
"They've been good," Williams said after Wednesday night's 80-65 victory over Georgia Tech at Comcast Center. "They're going to make mistakes, but they know the coaching staff is working hard to make them really good this year.
"They're improving. Whatever happens this year will really help them in the future. Plus they get to play a lot. They saw the need for some ball-handling after last year, and they've provided it for us."
Their styles couldn't be more different.
The 6-foot-5 Vasquez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela via Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. is a dashing, flamboyant playmaker with no fear of driving against centers and power forwards. He was brilliant in Maryland's victory over Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but just as often plays out of control. He struggled in the Terps' loss at Virginia Tech last Sunday.
Hayes, a coach's son who starred at Potomac High School in Dumfries, is much more solid and consistent. On Wednesday night, he scored 12 points (to Vasquez's three), including an 8-for-8 effort from the foul line. And he had seven assists (to Vasquez's five). Each had two turnovers.
"Eric Hayes was a really steadying influence," Williams said. "He made some really good decisions--and he made all his free throws."