Laurel graduate recalls final four basketball appearance
By DAVID DRIVER
Mar 17, 2016 | 11:12 AM
In the late summer of 2005, the George Mason University men's basketball was scheduled to do conditioning drills when a member of the team didn't show up for a physical, according to Laurel High graduate John Vaughn.
But the team was somehow able to get out of the punishment and instead coaches had members of the team take part in open gym at the on-campus facility in Fairfax, Virginia.
"It was one time I wish we would have to do the conditioning," said Vaughn, who was an all-Colonial Athletic Association rookie team player as a freshman at Mason in 2004-05.
That was because it was during that session that Vaughn, a former basketball and football standout at Laurel High, tore his ACL and was forced to miss the 2005-06 season.
Vaughn, a Baltimore native who grew up in Laurel, missed more than just the season: he had to forego a part of history.
"I thought it was a pretty neat gesture," Vaughn said of Larranaga, now the head coach at Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The miracle run by Mason ended with a loss to eventual national champion Florida in the Final Four.
But those memories 10 years ago this month have stayed with Vaughn.
"At the end of the day when all else fails you have to play for each other," Vaughn said. "Coaches can only do so much. When you step in between the white lines you have to have what it takes."
Vaughn relays some of those lessons today as a youth basketball coach in Northern Virginia, where he has guided an eighth-grade travel program, Great Falls Select. He lives in nearby McLean, Virginia and works in real estate.
Vaughn said he keeps in touch with several of his former teammates from George Mason, including some playing overseas.
The Mason starters during the Final Four run were all from Maryland: Tony Skinn (Takoma Park); Folarin Campbell (Silver Spring); Will Thomas (Baltimore), a product of Mt. St. Joseph; Lamar Butler (Fort Washington) and Jai Lewis (Aberdeen).
"We had a lot of doubters as far as our team and people doubted us," said Lewis, now a behavioral specialist at Halstead Academy in Parkville, Baltimore County. "We were a mid-major; nobody thought we could compete against UConn" and its future NBA players.
Skinn played for his native Nigeria in the 2012 London Olympics and is an assistant at Louisiana Tech.
Butler was an assistant coach this season at St. John's College High in Washington, D.C., while Thomas (Spain) and Campbell (Poland) are still playing overseas.