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Vaughn prepares to assert himself down low
Last year, another celebrated player in a long line of Georgetown big men, Greg Monroe, left the Hilltop for the bright lights of the NBA, creating a void in the Hoya frontcourt. Stepping in to fill the paint is senior Julian Vaughn. But make no mistake, Vaughn isn’t trying to fill anyone’s shoes.
As a junior, Vaughn started alongside Monroe in a dynamic frontcourt that became one of the team’s biggest strengths last season.
“We’re definitely going to miss Greg. I loved playing with him … I think we complemented each other really well,” Vaughn said. “But at the same time, no one here is trying to be Greg. I’m not trying to change my game. I’m just trying to do what I do and do it better.”
While Vaughn might not have the all-around offensive game that Monroe boasted, he is more than capable of providing the inside presence necessary for success against Georgetown’s rugged opponents. While Monroe’s game featured many face-up moves and swift passes, the large Vaughn will bring physicality to the paint.
Vaughn’s style of play, which puts a greater emphasis on defense and rebounding, is a perfect complement to this year’s extremely talented group of guards.
“We’ve got a lot of firepower at the guard positions, there’s no lie about that,” Vaughn said. “I definitely feel like we have to maintain that physical presence down low, defensive rebound, block shots, anything like that. And the frontcourt has to be effective with the guards to have a good team. You can’t rely on just guards, you can’t rely on just big men.”
Vaughn’s importance to this year’s team and his potential is certainly not lost on senior Chris Wright, the starting point guard for the Hoyas.
“Julian is very important. He is going to be a very big part of our success this year,” Wright said. “I think it’s going to come full tilt this year. First year he was adjusting to things, last year he was kind of behind Greg. I think this year he’s going to blossom. And he’s going to make plays and hopefully he defends and rebounds and does all the dirty stuff that we need.”
Vaughn’s style of play will certainly be a huge asset to the team, but his most important role on the team could be to provide leadership.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be about what’s expected of him as well as the fact that he’s a senior,” head coach John Thompson III said. “Jules is a senior and Jules has a bigger responsibility this year to be part of the group that is going to provide a post presence for us.”
The Hoyas should have every reason to believe Julian is more than capable of being a leader on this team. His last experience as a senior leader produced championship results.
Vaughn was a four-year letter winner on the basketball court at Oak Hill Academy, a school that has turned out the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Josh Smith, and Brandon Jennings to name a few. In his senior year, Vaughn led the Warriors to a 40-1 record, the No 1. National ranking by USA Today, and was named “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Virginia by the Roanoke Times and World News. So far this year, Vaughn has once again shown the effort and drive of a solid senior leader.
“He had a heckuva summer. He really was working hard, in the weight room and on the court,” Wright said.
Besides improving his own game, Vaughn knows one of his most significant tasks is to be an example to the younger players on the team.
“You’re more of a leader now to the younger guys, and you have to help them come along faster,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn’s pre-season work ethic has impressed sophomore Jerrelle Benimon who has the chance to get more playing time in the frontcourt alongside Vaughn with Monroe’s absence. His younger teammate saw him as one of the hardest workers this past summer.
In a year where the Hoyas are looking to assimilate five new players into a roster that lost an NBA lottery pick, this type of attitude and effort from a senior—which was missing on last year’s senior-less team—is invaluable.
Vaughn has the opportunity to be an integral part of this year’s team. In the guard-oriented offense the team will feature, he will be able to focus on defense and rebounding while being an opportunistic threat for the scoring attack.
He and the rest of the senior class have the chance to end their careers with a special season.
“Me, Chris, Austin, and Ryan Dougherty, we’re all just playing hard, working hard, trying to have the best year possible,” Vaughn said. “We’re just trying to come out with focus this year and play every game like it’s our last.”