Bucks' Latest Teen Intends to Join Exclusive Fraternity
Vaughn excited to begin career’s next phase
There was a time when teenagers weren’t deemed ready to compete in the NBA.
How times have changed.
Basketball-Reference.com documents that since 1963-64, 107 individuals who had yet to reach their 20th birthday had appeared in at least one regular-season NBA game. Rashad Vaughn could soon be joining that exclusive group.
Vaughn, who won’t turn 19 years old until Aug. 16, 2015, was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-6-inch guard out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas was named the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year, Honorable Mention All-Conference and Second-Team NABC All-District 17 in 2014-15 after averaging a team-high 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 38.4 percent from 3-point range and 70.2 percent from the free throw line.
Vaughn started all 23 games in which he appeared for the Rebels before suffering a season-ending torn meniscus in his left knee. At the time of the injury, his scoring average ranked third nationally among freshmen.
When Vaughn met the Milwaukee media for the first time June 26, he reviewed the whirlwind his life became when he sustained his knee injury during the final minute of UNLV’s Feb. 10 game against Fresno State. It carried him through surgery, rehabilitation and all the way to his introductory NBA presser, seated between Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd and General Manager John Hammond.
“I didn’t think this was possible,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t know what to think when I got injured. I didn’t know what I was going to do. To be where I’m at right now … it’s just a blessing to be here, to be in Milwaukee sitting next to these two guys, being picked with the 17th pick. It’s just a blessing.
“It was a long journey, starting from rehab and trying to get back into condition and trying to work on my skill set, from not touching a basketball. It took a lot of hard work, and going from workout to workout and from city to city, it took a lot of hard work, but it all paid off.”
Vaughn’s selection marked the third consecutive draft in which the Bucks chose a teen with their top pick, following up their landing of Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th choice in 2013 and Jabari Parker with the second pick in 2014.
Hammond made it clear that the Bucks got the man they wanted.
“When we talked about the needs for our team going into this offseason, we talked about shooting, we talked about trying to get more size and maybe the backup point guard spot,” Hammond said. “And I think as I said last night, every time we’ve talked about that, I think we’ve mentioned it in that order – shooting first. That was such a need for us, we thought as a team.
“I can say this: The guy sitting between Jason and I has a beautiful jump shot. I think he’s going to turn into a great shooter in this league; not that he can’t do more things. I think he’s going to be a capable ball handler. I think he’s going to be grow into a great NBA ‘2’ guard prototype body. But what we liked about him best was his ability to make shots and shoot the ball and shoot the ball with a great rhythm and great form. We’re all looking for that.
“When we walk into a gym from a scouting standpoint, the first thing we’re looking for is a shooter. We’re really excited to have Rashad Vaughn as a part of this organization moving forward.”
Kidd expressed enthusiasm over the selection of Vaughn as well.
“You talk about a competitor,” Kidd said. “You look at the boxes, he fits our age group. He’s young. There’s no pressure on him coming into this situation, for him to learn the game at the highest level.
“Being able to talk to him during his workout, he’s a great kid. He comes from a great family. One of the things that we needed was someone who can shoot the ball straight. At 18 years old, we felt that he could do that.
“I think for John, he was on their board. No matter what rumors or what was speculated of him shooting up, his stock had gotten better with each workout he attended. When we saw him, we liked what we saw. John and those guys do a lot of work before the guys come in, watching film, going out to watch them play. Again, we felt that he fit here in Milwaukee. He was there. He was the first guy we wanted, he was there and they had the opportunity to take him.”
Vaughn sensed that he made a positive impression on the Bucks’ brass when he worked out for the team three days prior to the draft.
“I knew, just by the workout, I thought I had a great workout,” he said. “Just the positive vibes I was getting when I got here, I knew they were interested in me. I wanted to come here as well, how it looked here, being a great fit for me. I just wanted to come in here for my workout and try to impress them and get picked.”
Draft night was an intense experience for Vaughn and his family.
“Leading up to the point, it was just nerve-wracking because I had no clue, no idea,” he said. “My mind was just racing. I was pacing. I couldn’t sit down. I just had my family there and we just all watched it together. We were all nervous. Once my name was called, we just went crazy. We were happy, very emotional.”
No NBA team made a more dramatic climb during the 2014-15 season than Milwaukee, which finished 41-41 to exceed its previous season’s victory total by 26.
Vaughn was monitoring the developments from afar with interest.
“Just watching them play, for them to be that young and to be in the playoffs and be playing as well as they were playing, that really impressed me,” Vaughn said of the Bucks. “Just how young the team is, it really impressed me where this team is headed. I think the sky’s the limit to how far this team can go.”
The aforementioned 107 teenage players who have played NBA basketball since 1963 have met with wide-ranging levels of success.
LeBron James played 108 regular-season NBA games before he reached 20 years of age and scored 2,362 points in those contests. That total puts him atop a list that also includes Kobe Bryant (second, 1,759), Carmelo Anthony (third, 1,725), Kevin Durant (fourth, 1,624), Dwight Howard (fifth, 1,243), Tracy McGrady (sixth, 909), Josh Smith (seventh, 851), Kevin Garnett (eighth, 835) and Andrew Wiggins (ninth, 826).
Of that group, James, Bryant, Howard, McGrady, Smith and Garnett came directly out of high school to the NBA.
The league’s youth movement was showcased Nov. 26, 2014, when four teens played in the same game, a first for the NBA. The matchup pitted Antetokounmpo and Parker of the Bucks against Wiggins and Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves. All were 19 years old when the game was played – and won by Milwaukee 103-86.
Teenage NBA players have gone on to build an impressive resume of All-Star appearances in their later years. Bryant leads the way with 17, followed by Garnett with 15, James with 11, Chris Bosh with 10, and Anthony and Howard with eight apiece.
Other teens who have achieved All-Star berths later in their careers include Tracy McGrady (seven times), Tony Parker, Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Durant (six times each), Kyrie Irving (three times), Stephon Marbury, Rashard Lewis, Luol Deng and Anthony Davis (two apiece), and Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace (one each)
Current and former Bucks dot the list of NBA teenage achievers. Antetokounmpo ranks 13th on the 107-player scoring list with 761 points. He is followed by Ersan Ilyasova (41st with 402), Parker (47th with 307), Shaun Livingston (54th with 222), Tobias Harris (56th with 208), Zaza Pachulia (66th with 145), Corey Maggette (88th with 40) and Jamal Sampson (106th with 0).
Vaughn is anxious to take his best shot when his time of reckoning arrives.
“I’m real excited just to come in and just start working,” he said. “I know they have great skill guys, great people to help me work on my body. I’m excited to come in and learn under Coach Kidd. That’s what I’m really excited about, just to get here and become a better player, get as good as I possibly can.”
And Vaughn’s rookie goal?
“Just to come in and just try to find my niche, just to come in and work as hard as I can, do whatever the team needs me to do and try to learn as much as possible,” he responded.
Before Rashad Vaughn knows it, class will be in session.