It's never easy to stand out in a relatively less publicized state when a classmate gets the jump as a national darling. That's the situation in which Rashad Vaughn found himself as a sophomore, when Minnesota peer Tyus Jones already had achieved wide acclaim.
But Vaughn kept grinding. At an early age he showcased a penchant for scoring, and offers trickled in from Minnesota, Baylor, Oregon State, Arizona State and Iowa State. Those coaching staffs knew they'd found a good one, and several of those programs have remained on his trail for two full years. His time with Net Gain Sports resulted in additional offers from Texas, Marquette, Tennessee, Georgetown and other major college programs.
During the 2012 summer, Vaughn attended the NBPA Top 100 Camp and competed against elite, older prospects. He performed somewhat quietly there, but that event helped set him up for a huge junior season.
He scored 51 points in one contest and, going head to head against Jones at the Timberwolves Shootout, netted 35 points and finally began to nip at Jones' media dominance. Following that, suiting up for Playground Elite on the 2013 EYBL circuit, he played a starring role in Anaheim at the first event of the cycle.
Vaughn's strong and at times spectacular play continued through the spring and into summer. He scored 33 points in the Reebok Breakout Classic's all-star game, outshining even more touted prospects such as Emmanuel Mudiay in the process.
His recruitment blew up along with his reputation. North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Minnesota and others made a strong pitch, but ultimately he pledged to UNLV over Iowa State.
Scorer. You can't always perfectly describe those guys, but you know them when you see them. Vaughn simply knows how to put up big numbers. He's not the most efficient player but has that extra explosive quality that enables him to transcend pace and context and dominate for stretches.
Vaughn at times has enjoyed prolonged scoring binges, such as his 51-point outing and the Reebok all-star game, but on most occasions he springs to life for a couple minutes at a time and exacts significant burst damage to the opposition.
He benefits significantly from broad shoulders and excellent natural strength. He's a physical driver who frequently employs a jump stop at the rim to explode for dunks and finger-rolls. He also can pull up for medium-range shots and is a solid passer who keeps his head up in traffic.
Meanwhile, outside the arc he's occasionally errant and occasionally unstoppable. But the key is that he always finds a way to get his shot, because he has a quick release, shoots very well off the dribble, utilizes step-backs and crossovers effectively, and has legitimate 25-foot range. Whether he makes or misses is on him, but he always can get a shot.
Vaughn also has been an effective offensive rebounder who picks up some easy ones on putbacks. He's a good wing finisher as well and draws abundant free throw opportunities.
Although offense is where he specializes, he possesses the strength and sufficiently quick feet to become a stout defender as well. When focused, as he was in one end-of-game possession versus Jones at 2013 EYBL Hampton, he can lock up even an elite player.
Vaughn actually isn't a pure shooter, and for that reason he's subject to some very poor outings with ugly percentages. His inefficiency can make him ineffective and lead to frustration and ill-advised shots, a cycle he'll definitely need to curtail at the next level.
He's also a good, not great handler and can settle for deep jump shots when putting the ball on the floor may result in a higher percentage opportunity. His preference is to set himself off the bounce, and he'll need to enhance his comfort level with the catch-and-shoot opportunities he'll receive the remainder of his career.
More than his visible talent or current production, Vaughn boasts a great deal of promise due to style. He may suffer from inconsistency during his adjustment phase for what may prove to be just one year of college, but his ability to create for himself should enable him to enjoy a long professional career.
To take that next step, Vaughn simply needs to become a more consistent and efficient weapon. But clearly, it's difficult to overstate the value of a player who can rise to the occasion the way he has repeatedly over the past year.