Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS Ryan Anderson stood stone-faced Wednesday morning, discussing the Rockets and how exactly his Hornets could defend a team that had beaten New Orleans four out of the past five times.

And then, suddenly, he perked up, the question in front of him wondering about point guard Greivis Vasquez.

'He's such a confident player,' Anderson said. 'It's just great to see that every night. He really has that mentality like he is better than any player he goes against any night. I think you have to have that. You have to have that confidence.'

Indeed, that confidence has helped Vasquez dish out the NBA's third-highest assist total this season at 308. Though the Hornets haven't completely capitalized on Vasquez's improvement from his first two seasons, he's a bright spot and a beacon of hope for the future.

But his biggest growth hasn't been on the court.

Coach Monty Williams sees the third-year pro growing in other places.

'He has learned how to take coaching,' Williams said. 'He won't allow it to bury him. Last year I would jump him in games or get on him in practice and I think it would affect him differently. Now he knows I'm going to jump him when he messes up and he has to deal with it.

'That's what the good players do. They want to be coached. They want to be pushed. They learn how to deal with it and keep wanting it.'

Vasquez's career minutes have grown from his rookie season with Memphis, when he played just 12 minutes per game, scoring 3.6 points while dishing out 2.2 assists per game. A year later, after being traded to New Orleans just before the season starting, he started 26 of 66 games and increased his scoring by five points and his assists by three.

This year, though, he has exploded onto the scene as New Orleans' full-time starting point guard. He's scoring 14 points per game while averaging 9.1 assists. Though the turnovers have gone up to 3.3 this season, he's playing 341/2 minutes per game.

The good news for Vasquez has been the return of Eric Gordon. Since the return of the guard, Vasquez's points have remained high, his assists have gone up and his turnovers have gone down.

Vasquez now doesn't have the pressure of being the closer.

'With a guy like him, he can draw so much attention that the last shot of the game he can pass it to somebody because they'll double team him,' Vasquez said. 'Having Eric is a huge tool for us.'

Vasquez's play helped him earn a conference player of the week honor earlier this season.

Anderson sees Vasquez and notices just how much confidence he's playing with these days.

He knows where he came from,' Anderson said. 'He knows he has to work to get to the next level. And I love that, especially in a leader on this team. He is just going to get so much better and it's exciting to see how well he's playing right now.'

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