Kia Vaughn Continues To Shine

Before the start of the season, head coach John Whisenant believed that center Kia Vaughn, given an opportunity to play, was going to surprise some people.

Playing with confidence, swagger, and defensive tenacity out on the court that are some nights unmatched, Vaughn is in the conversation as a Most Improved Player candidate and as a possible All-Star selection. After sitting on the bench for her first two years in the WNBA, Vaughn is relishing the opportunity to play, and proving time and time again that her coach was right.

“I’m not worried about making mistakes or anything because [Whisenant] has allowed me to play in and play through my mistakes,” Vaughn, the Bronx, New York native, said. “The first two years you have confidence but you’re not always sure. Coach is always like ‘okay you made a mistake now come out.’ Then you think what did I do, am I going to ever stay out there to learn.”

Playing a career high 31.5 minutes per game, Vaughn tallies the second highest playing time on the team. She has tripled her points per game average and has almost quadrupled her rebounding output, averaging now 11.6 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game. Her 7.2 rebounds per game is good for ninth in the league, ahead of players like Washington’s Crystal Langhorne, San Antonio’s Sophia Young and Minnesota’s Taj Williams-Franklin.

“She’s played well and she’s deserving,” Whisenant said. “She’s worked really hard. She was in the gym two or three weeks before training camp started, working with Mo (Ambers) and it's showing. Kia’s hard work, her receptiveness to the goal of being better, it’s a compliment to her.”

Vaughn, who Whisenant describes as a tireless worker, has played her best this season when playing against some of the top players in the league. On more than one occasion, she has out-scored and shutdown former All-Star Erika de Souza. Her best all-around game came against the Tulsa Shock, scoring a career-high 24 points and corralled 12 rebounds against promising rookie center Liz Cambage.

“She has always had the talent, but it was just pulling out the confidence,” said assistant coach Monique Ambers. “She can score and she can obviously play defense. Right now, I would say that she is one of the top five posts in the Eastern Conference.”

As Vaughn continues to play more minutes, she continues to be an efficient force out there for the team. She’s hitting 52 percent of her shots, while also grabbing 2.9 offensive rebounds a game, ranked seventh in the WNBA. She’s also been one of the most efficient posts, averaging a 14.8 efficiency rating among centers, good for third in the league.

“She’s physical, she works really hard, and she plays great defense,” guard Cappie Pondexter said. “She’s very athletic, a very powerful player. It’s something you don’t see often.”

For someone who is 6’4", Vaughn proves on the court she’s quick enough to guard anybody, even wing players. On Friday, she will be facing one of the bright young stars in the WNBA, center Tina Charles. It will be a challenge to slow her and the Connecticut Suns down, but Vaughn prides herself on her strong defense and relishes the chance to go up against one of the best players in the WNBA.

“I love playing defense,” Vaughn said beaming. “I’m one of the best defensive post players there is in the league .They have to play against me and I have to play against them. I love the challenge.”