Muir Guard Is Making All the Right Moves : Basketball: Jacque Vaughn, only a junior, is rated among the top five high school guards in the nation.
Frustration was Jacque Vaughn’s companion the first few times he went one-on-one against his older brother, James.
The then 13-year-old Jacque tried a variety of moves to make headway in his attack. He went forward, sideways, diagonally and back. Nothing worked. Every direction he chose, his brother was there to cut him off.
“He started schooling me,” Jacque said. “Really beating me bad.”
But like basketball, at which Vaughn was already proficient, the secret to winning at chess did not remain a mystery for long.
“I was trying to win too fast,” he said. “Once I learned strategy, how to move each piece so that they work together, well, I caught on.”
Vaughn’s growing proficiency at the chessboard comes as no surprise to those who have watched the Muir High junior direct an offensive on the basketball court.
Last season, Vaughn led the Mustangs to the Pacific League championship and was selected as the league’s most valuable player.
This season, after attending the prestigious Nike camp in Indianapolis in July, Vaughn is considered one of the top five prep guards in the nation.
“He has the innate ability to get the ball to the person who is in the best position to convert,” Muir Coach Rocky Moore said. “It’s like he sees what’s going to happen before it does. Like he’s a step ahead.”
Vaughn, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, was a student of passing before he stepped onto the court to play in a game. His brother, Marlon, who played point guard at Cal State Fullerton, provided the instruction by example.
“I’d just go to the playground and watch him,” Jacque said. “I was too small to play with his age group, so I sat on the sideline and learned.”
Vaughn, 16, was 5 when he began playing in organized leagues. He eagerness to make passes of his own was tempered by his wariness of trying them against bigger, stronger opponents who were all of 8 years old.
“My brother forced me to get out there,” Vaughn said. “I cried and said, ‘They’re older than me, I’m not ready for this yet.’
“But he pulled me over, gave me a hug and said, ‘Hey, it’s time.’ ”
By the time Vaughn arrived at Muir, he was an accomplished passer. He was confident in his ability but wary, once again, of how he would be accepted by older players.
At Muir, which has produced some of the San Gabriel Valley’s most talented athletes, respect is bestowed upon only those who earn it.
“I didn’t want to do too much or too little, I just did enough to keep me playing,” Vaughn said. “Eventually, my teammates realized that if they filled the lane, they were going to get the ball.”
Last season, Vaughn took a more active role and guided the Mustangs to the Southern Section semifinals and a 24-5 record. He averaged 21.5 points and 10 assists a game for a Mustang team that also included Darren Green and Philip Turner, who are attending San Jose State and UC Santa Barbara, respectively.
“A lot of players that are as good as he is have a tendency to try and be too flashy,” Crescenta Valley Coach John Goffredo said. “Jacque wasn’t like that. He can go, and get the ball to, anywhere he wants to on the court--and he does it in a spectacular fashion. But with him, it’s just like he’s going about his business.”
Last summer, Vaughn passed up several opportunities to play for traveling all-star teams so he could participate in Muir’s summer league program.
“Coach (Moore) said the team needed to form during the summer so that when the season came around we wouldn’t still be trying to put it together,” Vaughn said. “I’ll give up some personal rewards to play for the team.”
Vaughn’s one absence was for the Nike camp, an invitation gathering of only 150 players from around the nation that included California-bound senior Jason Kidd, considered the premier high school player in the country.
“I was able to play with the best and I think I did a pretty good job of stepping up to the challenge,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said his personal challenge this season is to improve his perimeter shooting.
Although he is a junior, Vaughn is the most experienced player on the Mustang roster. Through five games--against Long Beach Poly, Lynwood, J.W. North, Los Alamitos and Santa Monica--Vaughn is averaging 25 points. He knows he is being counted on to be the team’s main scorer.
“I had all the confidence in the world that I could make the pass and dribble all over the court without getting the ball stolen,” Vaughn said. “But I didn’t have the confidence that I could pull up for a 16-footer and knock it down.
“Now I’m developing a shooter’s mentality.”