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Q&A with Former and Forever Hoya Julian Vaughn

Duke v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Julian Vaughn played a major role for the Hoyas in his two years with the program, and after playing overseas for a number of years he has returned home to to teach other athletes what skills he has learned about training and athletic performance. His new facility, Pro-Fit Basketball Training, is now open in Rockville, Maryland, and Julian was kind enough to answer (more than) a few of our questions about his time at Georgetown and beyond. Enjoy!

Tell us everything we need to know about Pro Fit Basketball Training. What’s the concept and who are the types of kids you are looking for?

Pro-Fit Basketball Training is a idea that has actually been on my mind for several years now, but just came to fruition around January 2018 in terms of a physical ‘place’. Even though I was a local guy, I spent practically my entire summers at Georgetown. And in that time I got SUPER tight with our strength coach Mike Hill. It was during those sessions I really developed a passion for athletic training and sports performance. I remember coming back on my own inbetween classes just to pick his brain, get extra lifts in, etc.

During my seasons overseas, I was studying to test and get certified to train when I retired. I knew pretty early on I would be retiring early, and just officially called it quits last February. Every summer I would train kids from local AAU programs I knew, renting space at various community centers for side money in my off seasons.

Then that just blossomed into parents asking for “on-court” basketball skill work sessions. And then I got volleyball and soccer contacts who needed speed and conditioning as well, and the rest is history. I needed a space to bring all my clients and work out of, and just signed a lease in January for my first gym. I’m super proud of it and only see it going up from here.

What was the biggest reason behind your decision to transfer to Georgetown from Florida State?

Not everyone knows this, but around that time my mother was diagnosed with cancer and it wasn’t looking so good for awhile. I loved FSU and the coaching staff, but decided that if things took a turn with her I wanted to be home. Georgetown recruited me out of high school, and I had known Chris and Austin for YEARS...and played AAU with Austin all of High it was a easy transition. Thankfully, my mother pulled through and I got to be home for the remainder of my college years. And i wouldn’t have done it any other way.

You had a lot of success as a Hoya during your time at Georgetown. Looking back at it, what was your most memorable moment or win? On the flip side, what is your worst memory or the loss that still stings?

Man, there are too many to count. My junior year was pretty special, because we went from in the NIT the year before, to a 3 seed in the NCAAs. That whole year honestly was special, but beating Duke at home with Obama was pretty nuts. That was probably the best crowd I can remember. I am pretty sure that was the same year we had that 15-20pt comeback against UCONN as well, when they were stacked with Kemba, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson.

But I guess if I had to choose, it was beating Syracuse for JT3’s first win up there. The fans don’t know this but that was an awful, awful trip. We got stranded at some really tiny airport because of a snow storm. They had to make a emergency landing because of visibility or something. We had to watch film in the pilots lounge, and we didn’t really get dinner or anything, and arrived in Syracuse early AM the day of the game. But we pulled it together and won, and I’ll never forget that feeling.

Worst memory - Ohio. My God, so much wasted potential on that season. We were an Elite 8 team at worst that year, and everyone knew it. I also feel that was the loss that started the “NCAA 1st weekend/ Gtown choking” stigma we have. And that’s annoying.

Simply put, what the heck happened in that Ohio game? Looking back at it, was there anything you would or could have done differently?

Ohio - I don’t think anyone would be too mad at me if I talked about it now that it’s almost 7 years removed. It wasn’t a case at all of us overlooking them, or being overrated like people thought. We had a really, really solid team that year. Probably the strongest guard in the entire conference in Chris, who could take anyone 1v1 in the country. Two snipers in Austin and Jason, and Me and Greg down low. We knew we were good, and played all year like it for the most part. You don’t just luck up and get a 3 seed. Ohio, position for position was not better than us. No way.

But I remember the practice the night before the game, we were going over their plays. Just like always. The starting 5 usually guards the next 5, with the next 5 doing the plays of the other team. I remember going thru the first play and they were carving us up. We couldn’t figure out how to stop all the options. We got yelled at, fixed it....and then they would find another option for a cutter or wide open 3. After like 3-4 adjustments of not stopping that play, JT3 got mad and changed the play to another.

Literally, the same thing happened. I don’t think we stopped them from scoring or having a super solid look in 10-12 possessions. Coach got pissed and basically called practice and told us to just get shots up for the next 30 minutes. I know he was thinking we weren’t focused, but I was chatting Austin I think and was like “Bro, we need to figure this out before tomorrow or its going to be tough”. And that’s what happened. It was more their system was something funky we hadn’t seen, and probably needed another day or two to master it. Not that they had better players.

The thing with teams like that, those are the WORST games to play. Because everyone in the world expects them to lose. Even them deep down. Its important to just come out, finish them early and erase any thought of a win. Then they will give up because, “hey, this was supposed to happen”. But if you give them any daylight, they get confident. They hit shots they don’t normally make. Refs are human, and they feed off the underdog energy and crowd. They get some calls.

Then boom, its over.

You also were a member of the squad the following season that got tripped up by a hot-shooting VCU team. That was a bit different as Chris Wright’s injury sort of changed the complexion of the team down the stretch, but what are your thoughts now when you think about that game and that Hoyas team?

VCU - that was a different year entirely because we had again, started really good. But we ended really bad. We lost Chris for like a month maybe? And lost maybe 3-4 in a row. It was the exact opposite of the year before because we had no momentum. The year before we lost at the buzzer basically in the Big East Tourney, and we were streaking.

That, and it was Chris’ first game back in awhile. Doesn’t matter who you are, even though he’s good and great for us we needed to adjust to playing with him again. And VCU got hot at the right time. They beat us, a super solid Purdue team with JaJuan Johnson...Florida State...and I think Kansas too? They were much better than advertised clearly. It was a different feeling than Ohio. But still stung because that was the last game for us with Georgetown.

Speaking of the Seminoles, are you rooting for them in the Sweet 16 or do you have another favorite team that you would like to see win?

Haha I mean, I’m definitely happy for their success but by no means am I rooting for them. I really stopped following college basketball, like a year or two ago. I know it probably sounds weird but, I only really follow the key players for that year...the ones everyone talks about. I don’t really get into who is winning, who is in the top 25, etc.

I do however keep tabs on Georgetown though. But I just like to watch good basketball, and appreciate the talent of the guys out there. I don’t get into who wins anymore. I know it’s lame, but it’s the truth!

Your Hoyas teams had pretty good success against Syracuse. Why is it that so many teams struggle against that 2-3 Zone and what specifically did you guys do so well that led to your success against it?

Syracuse’s zone is 100% not the cookie cutter 2-3 zone they play in Rec League. They have subtle adjustments, play calls, and sudden traps you have to look out for. Not to get all technical, but they also use a match-up zone which is different and looks a bit like man, but its not.

I can’t speak to the guys now, but when I played, the zone was ridiculously tough. Rautins was 6’5, and Wes Johnson was 6’8. So those long arms were really tough for most smaller guards. The back line was Kris Joseph, Arinze Onuaku, and Rick Jackson.....6’8, 6’9, 6’10. Zero daylight for anybody on the floor. Also, communication is non-existent in the Carrier Dome w that noise. We cant even hear ourselves out there, so you can forget about coach.

I will say that JT3 practices for Syracuse were different than for most teams. We didn’t really care about their plays, we needed to score. We drilled like crazy how to attack their traps, and to know when/ if they were coming. We had to get to a point where we were playing almost subconsciously...and I knew that if i was trapped in the lower corner, Austin HAD to be there on the elbow. I wouldn’t even have to look, I knew he was there and he’d be open because two were on me. And it helps we had several shooters in Jason, Hollis, Chris, Markel and Austin. Coach also made it a point to make sure the 4s and 5s got the ball and scored more. He pushed us to be aggressive and score early and deep. So it would open the floor up.

But even with that. You have to hit 3s to win. That’s what they are risking with the traps, and they are betting you’ll miss. We just got lucky more often than not I guess.

After graduating from Georgetown you played professionally overseas. How did the process of finding a team over there work and how did you enjoy your pro experience playing in Belgium? What were the best and worst parts about it?

It’s pretty simple honestly. There’s no draft or anything, but you do need an agent who is familiar with the GMs and Coaches over there. Basically the teams there put out what they are looking for position wise, and agents respond to them with film and hopefully try to convince them that you can fill that role. If they like you as a player...

It’s a lot less of a commitment because most of these deals are only for 1 year, so its not like a team is stuck to you for 3-4 years like the NBA.

Belgium was my first country. Jason Clark is still there actually and loves it. I think he resigned with the same team for the last 2-3 years, which was my old team. Most of Belgium, especially the Dutch-speaking part, is like America. Everyone speaks perfect english, they have all the stores we do, food is great, etc. For sure, there is a culture shock. But for a rookie, it was a great place to be. I went to other countries which were A LOT rougher, and harder to manage. Eastern Europe is a totally different story. Spent a lot of time in Poland and Russia, and those were tough adjustments. The weather is brutal, English is non-existent for the most part, and the culture is a complete 180.

Greece was my favorite place though. Spent 3 years there, and the people are amazing. I was called a monkey a few games though, and had banana peels thrown at me and some of my teammates, but other than that it was cool haha.

Do you still follow Georgetown basketball?

My first couple years out absolutely. Every game. I would stay up until 3 or 4am in Europe to watch. Around 3 years ago it got harder, because I wasn’t personally invested in the guys so much. Everyone I played with had graduated, and it was just JT3 left. I know my mother NEVER misses a game. Like ever, and is always texting me box scores and recaps. She knows who we are signing before I do. I don’t catch as many games like I used to, but I for sure still check this blog from time to time, and see how were doing in the conference.

What are your thoughts on the decision to fire JTIII? Did you agree with the move at the time? Why do you think JTIII was ultimately fired?

Yikes. I knew this was coming when I agreed to this. Honestly, I remember the pressure was mounting and people were upset...but I didn’t think they’d actually pull the trigger. I thought he had one more year. The Thompson’s are Georgetown Basketball. They are involved in the program even today, while JT3 is not coaching. You will never shake their presence. So I get why it was a tough decision.

However, at the end of the day its about wins and losses. UCONN just got rid of their coach after he WON the whole thing in 2014, so its hard to be upset.

Which Hoyas do you stay in touch with the most?

I think we all do a good job of keeping in touch, regardless of where we are in the world. I’m super close with DaJuan Summers, Jessie Sapp and Pat Ewing Jr...even though they are a bit older than me. I got married last summer and all of them, including all the guys on my team like Greg Monroe, Henry Sims, Jason Clark, came through. If I had to say who I spend the most time with in the off season I think it’d be Henry. But that’s probably not a surprise to you guys.

Tell us something hilarious about Henry Sims. What was the deal with that whole Swagman/Regularman thing anyway?

Lord. I have way too many stories haha. That Swagman thing was kind of a inside joke that we started in summer school one summer. For those who don’t know, summer school is an endless opportunity for dumb behavior. We take maybe 1-2 classes a day, and then we’re pretty much on our own. We do have workouts, but they aren’t anything like they are in the fall, because of NCAA restrictions.

This was like right when Twitter was taking off, and we were going back and forth with these dumb anti-hero situations. I honestly cant for the life of me remember the reason it started, but it was awesome. It started w just me and Henry going back and forth with eachother but the fans started to retweet us and like it, so we kept it going. Then when you joined in is when all hell broke loose. I remember being in the locker room with Henry coming up with what to say next. We also got in a lot of trouble w Coach for that and had to cut it, but it was worth it.

I have probably 348 different “Henry Sims” stories that would embarrass the hell out of him, but I’m going to be nice and keep it to myself. I will say he is with out a doubt one of the funniest people I have ever met.

Which college team do you hate the most? Why?

I guess the correct answer is Syracuse, but personally still dislike Ohio for reasons mentioned earlier. I don’t really wish ill-will or losses on any program though.

Who was the biggest trashtalker in the Big East when you played?

There were a few that stood out. Nobody was truly disrespectful or reckless, but some definitely tried to be that guy. Lance Stephenson was one of them. Terrence Williams from Louisville, but he could back it up. He went nuts his last year there.

Personally me and Herb Pope used to go at it, but that’s just because we went to the same high school for a bit. Nobody on our team was really chatty. Austin was basically mute haha.

How much did this Greg Monroe pass surprise you?

That pass was nuts, but I was ready!! It was just a bit off center and had to gather it a little. But did I think he was gonna pass that to me the way he did? Not in a million years. I had played with him in probably 50 games at that point, had 200 practices and never seen him do that. But luckily I made it and all was right in the world.

There’s been some chatter about Georgetown fielding a full squad in this year’s ‘The Basketball Tournament’. Are you ready to lace ‘em up again should you get the call?

Negative. It’s over for me, I’m good. I haven’t run full speed in like 3 months now I think! I definitely lift and keep in shape, but not that kind of shape. It would be interesting to see what the team would look like though!

Evaluate Coach Ewing’s first year - what are some of the things you were most impressed with on the court?

If you look at it in terms of losses, it was another down year. But the story with this team was the same all year. Losing games on mental errors, giving up leads, freezing in the last 2 3 minutes. I think the biggest change is people can really feel that...with just a LITTLE more concentration, experience, time together, 6-7 of those losses are wins. 15-15 could have EASILY been 20-10.

Depaul, Providence, Xavier in OT, and the last home game w Marquette (which I was at) are ones that stick out as the biggest offenders. We just close those out, and Ewing has a bubble team in my opinion for the NCAAs, in his first year.

I think it was a growing year for everyone, but I like how regardless of the record, bad losses, etc...everyone is scared of the post presence we have. That’s hard to find, usually its the other way around. Now we have that coming in for next year with some new talent...I think it’ll be a really good year.


Special thanks once again to Julian for answering these.

You can follow Julian and Pro-Fit Basketball Training on instagram HERE, and if you have a little or not so little hoopster that you think could use some sessions at Pro-Fit Basketball Training, give Julian a call!