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Family works magic with Vaughn

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Statistics, videotape and medical reports tell only so much about the Magic's top draft pick, Memphis power forward David Vaughn.

To be sure, it's all encouraging.

But you won't discern anything about his character from a sheet of paper or VHS cassette. Instead, just chat with his paternal grandparents, David Vaughn Sr., a minister in Nashville, and his wife, Virginia, whom Vaughn calls his "role models," his "inspirations," his everything.

"They've always been there for me," Vaughn said Thursday during a news conference at the Orlando Arena, still clutching a Magic cap and jersey No. 42.

They raised their eldest of 36 grandchildren from age 6. Vaughn's parents, David Vaughn II and Gail, divorced in 1979. She had a stroke and died in 1988 at the age of 34.

His father, who played two unspectacular seasons of pro basketball during the halcyon days of the now-defunct ABA, still isn't exceptionally close to his son and rarely sees or talks with him. When they do talk, it's strictly about basketball.

"It's rough for him," Virginia Vaughn said of the father-son relationship. "But I taught David to love him no matter what, never hate, and just keep going."

David Vaughn II did attend a gathering of about 60 family and friends at the Memphis office of agent Jimmy Sexton for Wednesday's draft. Not that the younger Vaughn mentioned it. But he made a point to say how special the evening was that his grandparents were there.

David Sr. and Virginia both wept when their grandson's name and face flashed on the screen after commissioner David Stern announced the Magic's selection with the 25th pick of the first round.

"It was a very emotional scene," his grandmother said. "I cried for 15 minutes. He (her husband) cried, too. He was just thrilled to death. David gave him an NBA cap, and I think he's going to sleep in it. David hugged me and said, "Mama, we made it.' "

Since he was 8, Vaughn was consumed by that hoop dream. He spent summers at basketball camps with his uncle, Memphis coach Larry Finch, and developed into one of the nation's most-touted high school seniors. He signed with Memphis, the school Vaughn's father had committed to but spurned to attend Oral Roberts two decades earlier.

"I didn't realize that until after I signed," Vaughn said.

As a freshman, the younger Vaughn and sophomore point guard Anfernee Hardaway led the Tigers to the round of eight in the NCAA Tournament. But Vaughn missed the next season after partially tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

He rebounded as a junior, averaging 16.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots. But this past season, the 6-10, 240-pound Vaughn suffered another injury, a stress fracture in his left foot, and his statistics dipped.

"I was one of the components of a good team," Vaughn said, noting that Memphis reached the Sweet 16. But others suggested he also struggled at times playing for Finch, who admittedly was hard on him.

"He had my attention," Finch said. "He knows that. You don't get away with as much with your kinfolk as you do other people. I got on him. I pushed on him because I wanted to see him succeed."

"It was kind of tense," Vaughn said. "But my uncle was great for me. He was a great help to me."

He consulted Finch before declaring for the draft as an early-entry candidate, but the opinions that counted most were his grandparents'.

"They always wanted what was right for me," Vaughn said. "As soon as they supported me, I was comfortable with the decision. I'm ready. I've worked hard for it. I think I'm a good player and can get a lot better."

The Magic hopes Vaughn not only can provide quality minutes behind Horace Grant, but also help spell Shaquille O'Neal. Grant, who scrimmaged against Vaughn on Wednesday, came away impressed with his "work ethic and attitude; he didn't back down just because I was Horace Grant." Hardaway also heartily endorsed his friend.

"I'm willing to make the step," Vaughn said, "and do what it takes and help this team in whatever way I can so we can win a championship."