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Original Issue


Meet Jacque Vaughn—and say goodbye to some old notions about pampered athletes

In the five days from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, Kansas sophomore point guard Jacque Vaughn helped win two basketball games for the now No. 2-ranked Jayhawks. He collected 22 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and one sprained ankle. He attended 12 hours of classes, took one calculus test and spent another eight hours or so doing homework. He went to three practices that took up seven hours, spent two hours in the training room getting treatment, 60 minutes lifting in the weight room and 30 minutes conferring with his academic adviser. He got one haircut and watched snatches of college basketball and some morning TV. He wolfed down a couple of burgers, a grilled chicken sandwich or two, a pastrami on rye and several bowls of Fruity Pebbles. He worried for an undisclosed number of hours about playing Iowa State, signed 100 or so autographs, talked to two dozen reporters and, to his way of thinking, spent entirely too much time hanging out with a persistent writer and photographer from this publication.

And, oh, yes, he competed in one Funny Hat competition.

"Actually," said Vaughn when it was all over, "it was kind of a typical week."

To get an idea of what a "typical" week might be for a student-athlete facing a big weekend game, SI chronicled the comings and goings of Vaughn, a top player in a top program, during the time between Tuesday's Colorado game and last Saturday's showdown with Iowa State. We concede that to call Vaughn typical is an exaggeration. There are few student-athletes—or just students for that matter—who sit down on a weekend evening and plot their academic plan of attack for the upcoming week. Nor do the majority of the nation's jocks have a three-semester cumulative average of 3.78 as this Jacque does. But we wanted someone who takes the dual responsibilities of student and athlete seriously.

"Well," said Kansas coach Roy Williams, "you found him."

Wednesday, Feb. 1

By 9:15 a.m. Vaughn is in front of the Jayhawker Towers waiting for the bus that will take him up Jayhawk Boulevard to his 9:30 math class. (One trip to Lawrence, Kans., and you've pretty much had your fill of the word Jayhawk in all its myriad forms.) A couple of students shout "Good game," but no one, least of all Vaughn, is particularly excited about the previous evening's 99-77 victory over Colorado, the Big Eight's doormat. Vaughn's immediate concerns are the right ankle that he sprained and the Calculus II test for which he studied until 2:30 a.m. However, the instructor postpones the test until Friday.

Vaughn is taking calculus because, as a business major, two semesters of it are required. Among his 15 credits for the first semester were three A's and a B, giving him 11 A's and three B's in his three semesters at KU. If you think he's happy about that, you do not yet know Jacque Vaughn. "I worry about the B's more than I think about the A's," he says.

Vaughn's diligence in the classroom is not lost on his calculus instructor. "I was surprised when I saw him in here," says Bryan Lee, who is Korean. "Not many athletes take calc, and I wonder how he has the time. It is a very difficult course. In my country athletes at the university don't do anything. They don't go to class, and they get all the special privileges."

Vaughn's Wednesday course load is light, and he's finished at 11:20, after his 50-minute Spanish II class. It would be a good opportunity for the average student to kick back, maybe grab a nap or listen to some music, but, for Vaughn, a busy day is just beginning. En route to the Watkins Health Center for X-rays of his ankle, he sees a familiar face. "Hey, Mr. Wright," he says, tapping Dick Wright, a music professor, on the shoulder.

"Jacque, how are you," says Wright, embracing him. "Hey, quit diving for all those loose balls. You're going to hurt yourself." Like most everyone at KU, faculty or otherwise, Wright saw last night's game.

They talk for a few minutes, and Vaughn continues on his way. "A wonderful student and person," says Wright, who gave Vaughn an A in his Introduction to Jazz course last semester.

The X-rays of the ankle are negative, but Vaughn still has to report to trainer Mark Cairns for treatment. Along the way he meets a couple of friends from the football team who ride him about the "photo clothes" he's wearing for SI's benefit.

"Tommy Hilfiger shirt and that black Nike designer undershirt," says wide receiver Derrick Irvin, a younger brother of Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin's. "That's a hundred dollars on him just above the waist."

Over at the training room Vaughn runs into his sophomore backcourt mate, Jerod Haase, who is getting treatment for a leg bruise. Vaughn and Haase are not best friends, but they are truly kindred spirits. "I see so much of myself in Jerod," says Vaughn, and Haase says likewise. In preseason practice Williams put them on different teams because their combined competitiveness was too much for any opponent to overcome, and Haase and Vaughn are just as gnarly about their scholastic competition. "Killed him last semester," kids Haase, who, with a 3.81, beat Vaughn by .01. Vaughn scoffs. "He probably took underwater basket weaving or something for that extra point," he says.

Along with Scot Pollard, Vaughn's roommate and a forward on the team, they are also the most enthusiastic Jayhawks in the weight room. For 45 minutes, with his right ankle still throbbing, Vaughn tosses around an abnormal amount of weight for a six-foot, 193-pound basketball player. He does 360-pound lat pulls, for example, and dumbbell presses with 90 pounds in each hand. Then he dashes off 10 minutes late for his 2:30 meeting with Wayne Walden, the associate director of Student Support Services, a branch of the athletic department responsible for monitoring the academic progress of KU's athletes.

For a half hour Vaughn and Walden hunker down and discuss Vaughn's academic progress. "O.K., February 15 is your first accounting test, right?" Walden asks, then makes the entry on a calendar. "Now, that Spanish midterm is February 27, correct?" They pay special attention to the plans Vaughn has made to make up classwork he will miss when the team travels. That will only be about 10 class sessions over two semesters this season, because Kansas does not have any extended road trips. Vaughn already knows, for example, that he will miss a test in Spanish on Monday and tells Walden he has arranged to make it up on Tuesday. The great unknown, of course, is how much class time will be missed come the NCAA tournament.

Then Walden goes over the various requests for Vaughn to speak to school and civic groups, another distraction the average student doesn't have to face.

"Saying yes so far down the line is tough," says Vaughn of one.

"I understand that," says Walden.

"And it's during finals, too," Vaughn adds.

"It's all right, Jacque, you can say no to some things," says Walden, smiling.

"I'll have to think it over and get back," Vaughn concludes.

Next he dashes to the training room, where he covers his toes with his socks while Cairns tapes his ankles. "Don't want my dogs in a photograph," Vaughn says. "I have the ugliest feet ever." Practice runs from 4 to 7 p.m., and when it's over, Vaughn is bushed. He grabs a bite, returns to his room, catches the scores on ESPN's SportsCenter at 10 and gamely stays awake studying until midnight. It's then that he makes his personal calls back to his hometown of Pasadena, "to take advantage of the discount rates," he says. He goes to sleep about 12:30. Tomorrow is an especially busy class day.

Thursday, Feb. 2

Talk about a tempting cut—not only does Financial Accounting begin at 8 a.m., but it's a class with 300 students and attendance isn't taken. But at 7:59 Vaughn walks in and takes his customary seat near the back of Murphy Hall. Vaughn has even brought in a French chapeau to participate in Funny Hat Day and, rather sheepishly, takes his place with five other finalists in the front of the hall. He doesn't win.

"That was Jacque Vaughn?" the instructor, Marci Flanery, says afterward. "I knew he was in the class because my teaching assistants tell me he comes every day and does good work. But he carries himself so quietly, I didn't realize it was him."

Vaughn takes a quick detour to the training room after class. The ankle is bothering him, and Cairns tells him he must hoof it back to the health center—about half a mile away—to pick up some anti-inflammatory medication. "I can get it early afternoon, Doc, but I've got classes till then," says Vaughn. The conversation turns to the story in The University Daily Kansan about the grades of the Jayhawk varsity teams. The headline highlights the poor performance of the football team (INCOMPLETE PASS; FOOTBALL TEAM EARNS 2.05 GPA), but men's basketball has done well, with an average of 2.86, good for fifth place behind women's volleyball, women's track, women's golf and men's tennis.

Spanish class is next on Vaughn's schedule, and Elements of Sociology follows that. No campus buses come by, and Vaughn is limping badly as he trudges uphill toward the lecture hall for his 80-minute sociology class. One wonders if all this walking is negating the effects of his treatment. Finally a bus comes along, and Vaughn jumps on. As he disembarks, the driver calls to him, "Hey, Jacque, kick ass Saturday, man." After class Vaughn has about 90 minutes to eat before it's back to the training room for the cold whirlpool ("a brutal 56 degrees," he says) and practice from 2:30 to 4.

Once practice is over, a tantalizingly large block of time stretches out before him. Vaughn's plan is to go back to his room to get his weekly haircut, hit the books and then join his teammates at 8 to watch the North Carolina-Duke game on ESPN2. But gradually the clock gets away from him, something it rarely does on the court. His barber and buddy, Wendell Moore-Charles, arrives late and takes 45 minutes to do the job. Calvin Rayford, an injured teammate, stops over to get his hair cut too. Then another teammate, Billy Thomas, does the same. A while later Pollard's girlfriend, Mindy Camp, shows up. There is laughter, junk food and easy conversation, the kind of college-life staples for which Vaughn has far too little time during the season.

At 7:55 p.m. Pollard heads over to watch the game. "You coming, Jacque?" he asks. "At halftime" is the answer. Vaughn stays behind to study—first on his knees with the book on the bed ("my espa‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±ol position," he says) and then on the bed with the book near the pillow ("my business position"). He never makes it to watch the game and falls asleep studying at about 2 a.m.

Friday, Feb. 3

The day begins with the long-awaited calc test ("Not too bad," is Vaughn's assessment) at 9:30. Then it's Spanish (Vaughn recorded the message for his answering machine in that language) until 11:20, and a quick lunch on the treatment table, complete with critical commentary on his cheese fries provided by Cairns. Thoughts of tomorrow's game have begun to filter into Vaughn's brain, but he tries to push them out. He catches a bus and limps into the accounting lab that runs from 12:30 to 2:20. Stopping briefly back at his dorm, Vaughn rolls onto the couch for a few blessed minutes of rest and reflection.

"I guess what I miss most are the little things," says Vaughn. "Like lying on the couch, turning on the TV, doing nothing. It's not like I don't have any time to do that, but some of the time I have is wrapped up in worrying—worrying about what work I'll miss on a road trip or what plays to run against Iowa State.

"When we're at home, like this week, it's easier. On the road I like to concentrate on the game, but then, when I do get an hour, it bothers me that I'm not studying. I've even tried leaving my books home if it's a short trip, but then all I do is worry that I've left them home." He shakes his head. "I don't know, maybe it's just me."

To some extent it is, but any athlete trying to get his degree faces similar pressures. And that puts the question of compensation for student-athletes in a new light. "When we generate so much revenue, not only for basketball but also for so many other sports, I think some sort of compensation is needed," says Vaughn. "Not a lot, but since players can't have a job to make money, they shouldn't have to count pennies to do laundry or get something to eat after a late game.

"I'm probably luckier than most. My parents and older brothers [James and Marlon] send me a little money. That's what I live on. People wonder why athletes leave school to go to the NBA after two years, but it's no mystery. They see the money schools make from athletics, and, meanwhile, they're barely getting by."

After practice concludes at 6 p.m., Vaughn does some CD shopping at Streetside Records, a store in downtown Lawrence, grabs a baked potato at Wendy's, studies some calculus and hits the sack by midnight. "Exciting life, isn't it?" he says.

Saturday, Feb. 4

Most observers felt that Kansas had peaked with its 88-59 rout of then No. 2-ranked Connecticut at Kemper Arena on Jan. 28. But the Jayhawks rise almost to that level again, holding Iowa State without a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half, building a 63-31 lead and coasting to a 91-71 victory.

It's truly a team victory. With five blocked shots, senior center Greg Ostertag finishes the game with 231 for his career, breaking the alltime Big Eight record. Freshman sensation Raef LaFrentz, a 6'11" forward, hits both of his three-point attempts. Forward Sean Pearson scores 24 points. Haase bottles up Iowa State scoring star Fred Hoiberg, and Pollard comes off the bench to get 10 points and nine rebounds.

Vaughn is all over the place, making lookaway passes in transition, spin-dribbling his way to a layup, forcing Hoiberg to double-clutch on a jumper. You can't play point guard much better than Vaughn played it on Saturday.

Vaughn goes to the interview room a half hour after the game and answers questions for 20 minutes. As he prepares to emerge from the locker room, he asks about the fan climate outside.

"It's bad," he is told.

A couple of hundred of the Jayhawk faithful are waiting as Vaughn draws a deep breath and charges forward, signing posters, balls and programs as he heads steadily into the late afternoon cold. A few fans even follow him halfway to his dorm.

"Well, it would be a good night to party," says Vaughn, "but we've got midnight curfew and practice tomorrow. Got a big one coming up." Indeed, the Jayhawks were back on the court on Sunday morning and on a bus bound for the airport by 6 p.m. There was a 50-minute flight to Tulsa, then a bus ride to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State on Monday night.

But Vaughn, to his immense relief, already had one major decision out of the way. "I've got enough time to study in the afternoon," he says, "so I won't be taking any books."





Wednesday: Vaughn enjoys a virtual midweek break, with nothing scheduled after 10:30 a.m. Spanish class (top)—except, of course, weight work, practice and studying till after midnight.



Thursday: Vaughn's hat turns few heads at 8 a.m. accounting, but his ankle gets lots of attention later in the frigid whirlpool, as does his hair when a pal comes by to give him a trim.



Friday: Friday's dreaded calculus test turns out to be "not too bad," and then it's time for the final practice before facing Iowa State.



Saturday: Vaughn runs circles around the Cyclones as Kansas avenges an earlier loss, but afterward he still has one more press to escape.