- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2009

Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn is completely overhauling his basketball identity.

Virginia’s Mr. Basketball in 2007 and a consensus top-100 recruit at high school hoops factory Oak Hill Academy, the 6-foot-9, 247-pound Vaughn signed with Florida State and arrived in Tallahassee with a reputation as an offense-minded, face-up forward with range extending beyond the 3-point arc.

Following a modest freshman campaign in which he averaged 3.0 points and earned Florida State’s sixth man award, Vaughn transferred to the Hilltop to be closer to his ailing mother.

Though the Vienna native didn’t lose a year of competition because the NCAA granted him a special waiver, he did look lost throughout much of his first season at Georgetown. He seemed uncomfortable running the team’s Princeton-based offense. And his scorer’s mentality left him without a niche on a team that desperately needed interior defense and rebounding and already featured a face-up, shoot-first forward in DaJuan Summers.

Vaughn averaged just 1.8 points and 1.7 rebounds in 8.8 minutes as a sophomore, and as a junior he has had to compete with athletic sophomore Henry Sims and freshman forwards Hollis Thompson and Jerrelle Benimon.

Vaughn has responded by stepping into the Hoyas’ hard-hat void by drastically altering the focus of his game. He is averaging 7.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks for the Hoyas while boasting the best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7-to-1) among the team’s starters.

“I’m pleased but not surprised, because Julian knows exactly what we need from him, and he’s a very bright and coachable player,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of Vaughn, the one-time perimeter floater who suddenly has become a steady presence in the paint for the 16th-ranked Hoyas (5-0). “While it’s true that Julian wasn’t really known as a defender in high school, he’s been willing to dedicate himself to that part of his game. He worked his behind off in the offseason, but I think he also changed his mindset.”

The Hoyas have yet to face a Big East-caliber frontcourt, but Vaughn looks to be a solid inside complement to finesse-minded center Greg Monroe. Offensively, Vaughn has developed a reliable hook shot as well as a solid drop step.

Defensively, his progression is even more startling. Vaughn’s positioning on opposing post players, whether in entry denial or behind a player in the paint, trumps Monroe’s interior defense. And he leads the team in blocked shots.

Given Vaughn’s past form, the transition almost boggles the mind. But perhaps Georgetown finally has found the blue-collar frontcourt presence that has been missing since Roy Hibbert left two seasons ago.

“Aside from his natural talent, one of Julian’s primary strengths is that he is extremely intelligent. Combine that with his willingness, and he’s a very coachable player and an excellent teammate,” Thompson said. “Every kid wants to score, and those opportunities will increase for him, but he understands that what we need most from him are the blue-collar contributions - rebounding, blocked shots, defensive positioning and presence, hustle, passing.

“He’s starting to understand and embrace the fact that dirty-work guys do get recognized and noticed and applauded. That’s the part of his game which needed the most work when he got here. And he now understands that both our success and his future are linked to his development in that department.”

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