Greivis Vasquez’s body quakes. The senior’s shoulders shake and his face contorts.
After hitting a particularly big shot, Vasquez doesn’t mask his excitement.
Becoming the first player in ACC history to record more than 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds has earned Vasquez elite status.
After four years as a Terrapin basketball player, the trademark shimmy is the newly minted ACC Player of the Year’s calling card.
At Comcast Center, the move one former coach dubbed “The Caracas Shuffle” draws cheers. At venues across the ACC, it’s just another reason to boo, insult and jeer the fiery Venezuelan. With the ACC Tournament ready to begin today in Greensboro, N.C., a short drive from several ACC schools, some of Vasquez’s biggest critics will be in one place ready to voice their feelings about his polarizing on-court personality.
While the shimmy has gained particular attention this season — Vasquez went as far as gyrating in front of the Miami bench during a February home game — its roots stretch back much further, to Vasquez’s Venezuelan heritage.
That’s the part that Vasquez sometimes wishes his harshest ACC detractors would understand.
“It’s just something natural,” Vasquez said recently. “I’m not trying to be mean or disrespectful to anybody. I’m just a different type of person on the court.”
Growing up, Vasquez’s favorite basketball team was the Cocodrilos de Caracas led by star forward Armando Becker. Becker liked to punctuate his biggest baskets with a similar celebration dance.
Vasquez strived to be like Becker, and he had plenty of chances to experiment. At first, he went with an airplane celebration, similar to those sometimes used by soccer players after a goal, but his brother, Ingerman Sanoya, didn’t approve.
The shimmy, however, had more staying power.
Vasquez brought it with him to the United States when he enrolled at Montrose Christian.
Early into his time at Montrose, coach Stu Vetter said he did his best to curtail what he termed Vasquez’s “outwardly flamboyant” behavior.
Former Mustangs’ assistant coach David Adkins, a current Terp women’s assistant coach, said he started understanding Vasquez’s passion early in his high school career during an appearance at the prestigious Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
Adkins advised the budding talent to demonstrate a little more humility after an early round win. The next night, Vasquez didn’t shimmy and Montrose lost.
“I went back to Greivis and said, ‘Hey look. If doing the Caracas Shuffle is going to help us and help you play, keep doing the Caracas Shuffle,'” Adkins said.
Vasquez first busted the move as a Terp at Duke during his freshman season — a bold statement for a young player at historic Cameron Indoor Stadium. During the last two seasons, it made sporadic appearances.
Love it or hate it, Vasquez has been more animated than ever during his senior campaign. That includes a half-shimmy that drew the ire of a hostile, and at times vulgar, Donald L. Tucker Center crowd in a Feb. 4 win at Florida State. After that game, coach Gary Williams praised his star’s passion and talked with pride about his poise given the situation.
Vasquez even punctuated the three-pointer that gave him 2,000 career points on Feb. 20 against Georgia Tech with the familiar motion.
“That’s just him as a basketball player and not him as a person,” Williams said of Vasquez’s celebration Tuesday. “There’s a big difference.”
By this point, the move, which has never been punished by a technical foul, has earned a permanent place in Vasquez’s career. Comcast Center signs read “Gimme a Shimmy” and an instramural team name honors the famous dance.
In the months following the season, Vasquez will find out if his passionate brand of basketball can translate to the NBA.
But will the shimmy go along, too?
“Maybe not my rookie year. Maybe not my first two years,” Vasquez joked recently, flashing a mischievous grin. “But maybe after my second contract, I will do some of that.”