Few understood why Cooper star Rashad Vaughn would turn his back on Tyus Jones of Apple Valley and Reid Travis of DeLaSalle. Minnesota’s Class of 2014 “Big Three” were considered shoe-ins for the Howard Pulley Nike Elite Youth Basketball League club team.
Then Vaughn jumped the border.
The 6-6, 200-pound prospect is on a quest to define himself as the nation’s top prospect. He decided that means separating himself from the shadow of the highly regarded Jones and sought-after Travis by joining a Milwaukee-based club team 337 miles away.
Vaughn is off to a quick start. He led Wisconsin Playground Elite to a 3-1 record last weekend, the first games on the Nike circuit, and was the league’s top scorer. The Nike EYBL is a spring and summer league for the country’s best high school basketball players. From May 24-27, the league will play games in Eagan at High Performance Academy, but the Pulley team and Vaughn's Wisconsin team will not meet.
Vaughn isn't worried about what others might say about his decision. “It got to the point where we didn’t care anymore what people were going to say,” Vaughn said with a humble tone.
The country’s ninth-best rated player by ESPN is used to doing his own thing, calling himself a “trendsetter” of sorts.
But since Vaughn can remember, he has been paired with and compared to the nation’s No. 2-rated prospect, Jones. If he had played with Howard Pulley this summer, it would have been much the same and created what Vaughn’s father, Troy, and mentor Pete Kaffey, who has coached Vaughn, viewed as limitations for him to achieving his goals.
“I feel like he would have been just fine,” Jones said. “But there is no controversy. It’s the best situation for him.”
Fans will get to see the trio play on the same court for the first time Saturday in the Nike circuit’s second session in Hampton, Va. Playground Elite and Howard Pulley are scheduled to play at 10 a.m. CDT.
“I want it to be exciting. It’s Reid, Tyus and me, the Big Three. Everyone is going to amp it up,” Vaughn said.
Rightly so. Every high-profile college coach and scouting service will be watching. For Vaughn, seeking the No. 1 prospect ranking, this could be the game that helps him make a strong move in that direction.
“That’s what a lot of people want to see, so I’m sure it’ll be a pretty good game,” Travis said. “I don’t think we’ll be thinking about it too much, but I’m sure it’ll be nice for the fans.’
Last weekend Howard Pulley posted a 1-3 record. Jones, who led Apple Valley to the Class 4A boys’ basketball state championship last month, scored a single-game tournament-high of 38 points.
“We probably would have been the best team in the EYBL,” Vaughn acknowledged, referring to Howard Pulley if he had joined Jones and Travis.
“But sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.”
Jason Gonzalez • 612-673-4494