This past weekend was the Nike Tournament of Champions. Everyone that is anyone on the New York City basketball scene was in attendance. The tournament crowns one champion of NYC for the entire summer basketball season. At the event none other than Bronx native and Rutgers University center Kia Vaughn came out to enjoy the festivities. Her father, a street ball legend nicknamed the Predator, was playing in the semi-finals. Vaughn plays for the West 4th women’s champions that were participating in one of the games, but because she is a college athlete and the event isn’t yet sanctioned, she could not participate. With the whole Imus fiasco long behind her, we sat down to chat with the 6-4 Scarlet Knight star:
Dime: How has your summer been at West 4th?
Kia Vaughn: This summer has been great. This is the first summer that I have been here in four years. I have been overseas a lot, I’ve been able to compete more and play with better competition here. I think New York City players have something that a lot of other players don’t have – they’ll push you around. A lot of them are veterans at West 4th street so they know your weaknesses and they push you to make you stronger. West 4th is where I first started playing in high school.
Dime: Where overseas have you played?
KV: I’ve been to Russia, France, everywhere. They’ve been taking us a lot of places.
Dime: What’s the biggest difference between overseas female players and American players?
KV: Comparing the games from over here and overseas, overseas players feel they have a lot to prove so every night it’s a fight for your life. There’s never a sluggish game.
Dime: You’re in great shape and the season hasn’t started yet. What drills have you been doing?
KV: Well the drills I’ve been doing are just running and working out with my coaches. A lot of people I’ve run into have been like, “I’ve seen you during the season and I think you should work on this and that.” I’m always willing to listen, I’m always like “what gym, what time?” If there’s something you can really teach me I’m there for it, and even if it’s something you’re repeating cardio is always great.
Dime: Rutgers made it to the championship game last season, you bring back some key players. What can we expect from you ladies this season?
KV: The championship was something…it’s in the back of my mind everyday. I’m a senior so I have to look out for my team. I have to work extra hard and be the spark of my team. We have five freshmen coming in, we have to iron out the creases and see what they are about and we should have a powerhouse again.
Dime: You’re a senior this year, has Coach Stringer named captains?
KV: (laughs) Coach Stringer is not the type of coach where she has set starters or captains. It’s whoever works hard; it could be a freshman or a senior. Whoever puts it in during practice will start.
Dime: What’s it like playing for a Hall of Fame caliber coach like C. Vivian Stringer?
KV: C. Viv is like a mother figure. I call her “Grandma” though. I love her to death, she’s my heart and soul, but she’s crazy on the court. It’s like a love/hate relationship. Off the court she’s the person you can go to and cry on her shoulder, but on the court you hate her (laughs).
Dime: This is the first year they’ve had a women’s game at the TOC, how big do you feel that is for the women’s game and is it something that you feel should be sanctioned?
KV: I believe that it not being sanctioned hurts. Because a lot of us played at West 4th, like my self and Epiphanny Prince and with the guys my cousin Corey Fisher he didn’t get to play. It’s something we were looking forward to and we found out the night before that we couldn’t play.
Dime: Who do you enjoy playing with on the summer circuit?
KV: I like playing summer ball with the older veterans on the summer scene like Maria Clifton, Adia Revell and Almalika Lemon. They were older when I first started, so when I came in from junior high school, I was so scared and skinny and didn’t know anything. I learned a lot from playing with them and being around them.
Dime: A lot of people don’t follow the women’s game like that. Who would you say your game is similar to on the men’s side?
KV: Actually I like KG and Amare Stoudamire. And if you’re not watching women’s basketball, try watching the Olympics this year. The females are getting it in, we’re just as talented as the men.