Greivis Vasquez is back in Brooklyn trying to get ready for the season opener four weeks away. He’s just returned from his hometown of Caracas, Venezuela, the South American nation now in the deepest economic crisis in its history. Young people roam the city, unemployed, impoverished, out of school.
It’s not just about “giving back,” he says. It’s about understanding that there but for the grace of God, he too could have fallen into the trap that has caught so many young Venezolanos.
As he told Jared Zwerling of the players union...
“I could’ve been a thief, I could’ve killed people, I could’ve been in a gang, I could’ve done drugs, I could’ve done so many different things. But I just decided to go to school and get an education and play basketball. I just wanted to work, I always wanted to get better and I always believed in myself.”
So now, through a myriad of programs, he’s out to help save others’ lives the way his was saved, through education ... and basketball.
At the center of the programs, financed by his foundation (meaning him), is “Los 24.” a four-day training camp in Caracas for the top 24 basketball-student standouts in the country—18 boys and six girls, 15 to 18 years old. It’s not just about talent, as he told Zwerling.
“We do a complete study. We do the whole research, the whole background,” Vasquez said. “How do you treat people? Are you humbled? What kind of guy are you? Are you doing the right thing when nobody is watching? All those things come into play because that’s what we talk about in the RTP [Rookie Transition Program for NBA players]. I’m making these kids understand in order for you to be in my camp, you’ve got to take care of school, you’ve got to take care of things at home. We’re trying to create responsibility on these kids. I don’t want anything handed to them. I want them to earn it.”
And from those 24, Vasquez and his foundation selected four players who will get free scholarships to U.S. high schools to improve their game and their life.
Vasquez’s status for opening night is still up in the air. He’s recovering from bone spur surgery on his ankle, a rehab that is taking longer than he or his doctors thought. But none of that is affecting his ability to change others’ lives.