Julian Vaughn expected to help fill Greg Monroe's shoes for Georgetown basketball

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 10:27 PM

Greg Monroe's framed Detroit Pistons jersey will be unveiled Friday night at McDonough Arena, hung high on a wall alongside those belonging to Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Roy Hibbert and 18 other former Georgetown stars.

The brief ceremony will celebrate Monroe's contributions to the men's basketball team. It also will serve as a reminder of the question looming over the Hoyas as practice for the new season begins: How are they going to fill the enormous void Monroe left in the middle of the floor?

"I've never looked at it as: 'How are we going to replace Patrick Ewing Jr.? How are we going to replace Roy Hibbert? How are we going to replace Jon Wallace?' " Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said recently. "It's: 'Okay, this is who we have. How is this group going to win?' "

The answer, as Thompson sees it, will be with a contingent of big men led by Julian Vaughn and also includes Jerrelle Benimon, Henry Sims and touted freshmen Nate Lubick and Moses Ayegba. The extent to which the committee complements backcourt aces Austin Freeman and Chris Wright could determine the Hoyas' season.

"We know we're going to miss him," said Vaughn, who keeps up with Monroe through text messages. "But we're not looking to replace Greg. Me, Henry and Jerrelle are different players than Greg. We're not going to try to change our games and play like Greg. We're just going to do what we do, and try to do it better."

For Vaughn, that means significantly improving the statistics he put up as a junior (7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 49 blocks). It also means playing more, being a more powerful presence in the low post and more rugged at the defensive end.

"Julian is going to be our starting center," Thompson said. "So there's going to be more responsibility on him this year, and he's prepared himself for that. Last year, the opposition prepared for us with Greg as our primary post presence. It will be Julian this year."

In preparation for his increased role, Vaughn went to work in the gym and the classroom after taking just "a few" days off to get over the Hoyas' surprising loss to Ohio University in the first round of the NCAA tournament in March.

The Reston native packed on 15 pounds of muscle, bulking up to nearly to 260 pounds. He worked out often with Hibbert, taking pointers from the Indiana Pacers center as he honed his footwork, polished his ballhandling skills and built up his stamina. Vaughn also dedicated countless hours to dissecting video of himself and studying video of the Hoyas centers who came before him.

"I just wanted to see how they did it," he said. "Your basketball IQ can get better in leaps and bounds just by learning the game better. I did a lot more film than I've ever done."

Vaughn can be a dominant post presence, as he showed in fits and spurts last season. He poured in 19 points against Providence (on 9-of-14 shooting) and 18 against Washington (7 of 9 from the floor). Twice, he blocked four shots in a game. He also grabbed a season-high nine rebounds against St. John's. The challenge for Vaughn, though, is putting scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking together in the same box score.

"Definitely, that's what I want to do," Vaughn said.

Despite the loss of Monroe, expectations figure to be as high as ever for the Hoyas. The question of whether they can fulfill that potential will begin to be answered Friday - with Monroe's No. 10 jersey casting its long shadow on the court.

"Our theme this year is doing everything at a high level, every practice, every workout, stretching. Everything. Same level, high level," Vaughn said. "We want everything to be done with our best effort. This year, we want to treat every game the same. Doesn't matter if the team is 0-20 or the best team in the country."

Hoyas note: Georgetown will participate in the Maui Invitational during the 2011-2012 season, organizers announced Thursday. Duke, Kansas, UCLA and Michigan are also scheduled to play in the tournament, which will feature 12 teams for the first time.

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