Mikayla Vaughn is ND women's hoops' new center of attention

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

When size and athletic ability are in place, confidence is the next ingredient.

That’s the part of the basketball process where Mikayla Vaughn is now.

The 6-foot-3 Vaughn, who has averaged 15.8 points and 9.6 rebounds over the 78 games she played in three years at Friends’ Central School near Philadelphia, is ready to take her game up a notch.

Or two. Or three.

And it’s that confidence that should help her get it accomplished.

Shortly before leaving the comfort zone of Friends’, a school she had attended since first grade (with a high school enrollment of about 300), for the powerhouse of Paul VI Catholic School in Fairfax, Va., Vaughn put an end to the recruiting process last weekend when she committed to Notre Dame.

“It wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave (Friends’),” said Vaughn, who compiled a 3.9 GPA there. “I want to play at a high level. I want to be really, really good. I want my game to be college ready.”

“(Paul VI) is loaded,” said Bret McCormick, who handles the scouting service for All-Star Girls Report. “With Mikayla, they’ll have 10 Division I players on the team, with six high major.”

Notre Dame is about as high major as it gets. Her choices came down to Duke, Penn State, Virginia, South Carolina, Louisville and the Irish.

“A lot of the top schools are similar,” Vaughn said. “That’s when intangibles become so important.”

Besides everything the Notre Dame campus has to offer, the Irish have a wild card in assistant coach Carol Owens, who is in charge of the post players.

“I’ve seen what coach Carol has done with some of the other players, like (junior) Brianna Turner,” Vaughn said. “That meant a lot to me.”

“Vaughn has a good motor,” said McCormick. “She works hard. There’s no reason to think that, with the way (head coach) Muffet (McGraw) and Carol develop talent, she wouldn’t be a WNBA player.”

Per NCAA rules, McGraw is unable to comment until Vaughn signs. Phillip Annas, Vaughn’s coach for three years at Friends’, had plenty to say.

“Mikayla still has a lot of work to do,” said Annas, the head coach at Friends’ for the past 17 years, whose team was 21-7 last season. “She’s someone who is willing to put in the work. She’s been constantly developing all facets of her game, and I respect that.

“Being 6-3 is a gift from God. She’s very athletic, very quick. She has a knack for finding the ball. She needs to work on facing the basket more.”

That’s a key for a post in the Irish offense. Get the ball on the elbow, either side of the free throw line, and make that 15-footer. That draws the defense out, and opens up the other post down low. It’s one part of the attack that was missing last year. Here’s where Vaughn’s confidence comes in.

“I’ve worked and worked, and am confident I can hit that shot,” Vaughn said. “If you think it, you can live it. If you know it, do it. Don’t doubt yourself. Without confidence, you won’t play well. Be confident… and humble.”

A while ago, Vaughn was ranked No. 20 overall and No. 4 at her position in ESPN’s Hoopgurlz Recruiting Rankings. Now, she’s nowhere to be found.

McCormick never saw a significant reason for the fall out of favor.

“All I can think of is, in the 2017 class, there are a lot of hybrid players, kind of like (current Irish freshman) Erin Boley,” McCormick said. “They’re 6-3 and can play any position. They seem to be the ones who get the high rankings.”

“I don’t pay attention to anything like that,” said Annas. “All I know is she’s a solid player who has gotten better each year.”

“I’m the kind of a person who lives in the moment,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t want to drag the recruiting process on. I knew Notre Dame was for me.”

She was confident of that.

Prep center Mikayla Vaughn found a fit in Notre Dame. (Photo provided)