MANCHESTER Giants newest recruit Vaughan Bailey, is thankful to player-coach Yorick Williams, as he is given the opportunity to play basketball again at a national level after a turbulent period in his life.
Vaughan, who was only recruited in early December, is hopeful of proving himself to be a vital part of an evolving Giants side ahead of an important British Basketball League game this weekend.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to rising to the challenge. I know that I can do good things on this team and bring a lot to the table. It’s going to be a process but I’ll keep grinding away.”
The 28-year-old Giants player has been involved in basketball since a young age and described the sport as being in “its own world.”
“It was always something I wanted to do. I started following the culture of it, the music and the clothing. When I got to about 16 I knew that I was good but it was around 17 that I had a gear change and things started to click for me.”
The “click,” Vaughan explains was his ability to understand and read the game on different levels.
“You can have all the tools, but the key is knowing how to utilise them. It’s about knowing how to go at a defender, how to guard, how to shoot. I could always shoot but I wasn’t necessarily good at shooting? Once I started feeling comfortable and learnt how to take advantage of what the defender had given me, I felt kind of unstoppable.”
It was this keenness to understand the game and develop his skills that got Vaughan noticed as a potential young star.
The Birmingham-born guard progressed through the England national team before receiving numerous scholarships from Universities in America.
“I was picked for the Great Britain under 21’s team where I got offered nine scholarships from different schools. It took me a while to pick where I wanted to go and obviously had a lot to weigh up.”
Vaughan, spent three-years at Lindenwood University in St Charles, Missouri, where he studied Entrepreneurial Business as well as continuing to play basketball.
“The large international community was a strong pull as it meant I wouldn’t feel as alienated. I was having some minor knee problems so the rehabilitation facilities were also a large influence.”
Things however were not always positive for Vaughan, at 16 he was forced into a situation where he had nowhere to live, after his parents split up.
“It was difficult living out of a bag, I didn’t know where to turn. When I look back at it now, I could have got a bit of support, but I didn’t know where to go or how to get the problem fixed. I didn’t know who to speak to and found it embarrassing to speak to people about my situation, no-one really knew what I was going through.”
On his return to England, he began working as a model and was crowned Mr England in 2010. Vaughan’s friends urged him to try out modelling after a knee injury ruled him out of action from the sport he loved.
“Basketball is a love of mine. The fact that I stopped playing was weird for me because it was never something I visualised happening.”
On the back of winning Mr England, Vaughan got the opportunity to travel to China, to compete in Mr World, where he positioned within the top 20 of the event and topped the ‘Mr Personality’ group.
Keen to use his new found profile to help young people who have found themselves in difficult situations, similar to one’s the basketball player went through, he has continued to raise money for various charities and most recently completed a half-marathon to help raise £2million for a local children’s hospital.
After re-focusing the direction his career would take and using the skills he learnt throughout his time in America, Vaughan started his own company – Profile Media Network – which runs networking events.
“The business model focuses on giving other people an opportunity and further enables them to network and meet the right people,” Vaughan added.
Throughout his life, Vaughan has looked up to the likes of Jamie Foxx and Will Smith, who he describes as ‘motivational.’
“When I look at their careers, they went into the industries where they could have stayed at a certain level and been successful. Will Smith, for example, could have just stuck with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and been a huge hit, but they’ve both gone on to doing other things and succeeded there too. That’s what I respect in a person, never being complacent and always taking things to the next level.”
Sport has always been somewhat of a support system for Vaughan who has experienced a lot of highs and lows throughout his life.
He recently began to play local league basketball and says he “never intended to get back into the game so seriously,” however when Yorick saw him play he asked Vaughan to start training with the Giants.
Vaughan admits however that is hasn’t been an easy transition coming back after so long.
“It’s a great challenge, because coming back into it it’s been like I’ve never played before, that’s the crazy thing. Throughout my life, I’ve always been playing, so feeling this level of fitness, it’s something I’ve never felt before, feeling unfit.
“It was very bizarre, my legs feeling heavy, my chest feeling tight, it was something I’ve never experienced so everything is still quite new.”
Vaughan knows it will be an uphill battle and revealed that he will need to re-learn the basic skills that he originally believed would just, “come right back.”
Skills such as timing, coordination and footwork are just a few things that Vaughan knows he will need to focus on, however he is certain he will never give up now he has been given the opportunity to play again.
“I know it’s cliché but honestly the most important thing is never to give up. You can lose your confidence a little bit but it’s how you deal with that. It’s what you tell yourself, the preparation of getting yourself where you need to get to.”
Vaughan is keen to promote such ideal to the young athletes who look to succeed in sport.
If you keep telling yourself you can’t do something, that’s going to influence how you carry yourself. I keep telling myself ‘you can do this’ and pull the positives from everything.”
“If I had a bad training session I will leave it alone and think, ‘okay, what did I do bad in that session? How can I improve this? Just pull the positives.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Vaughan is relishing his latest. Looking forward he hopes that he can repay Yorick for the opportunity he has been given.
“I know I can do things for this team, and bring things to the table. People have an advantage over me because they’ve been consistently playing ball.”
Having to retrain himself both mentally and physically, he believes he can keep progressing and reach a new level of fitness.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game against the Plymouth Raiders, Vaughan wants to prove himself as a vital part of the evolving Giants squad, as they look to end a losing streak.
“One thing that anyone can give is energy and defence, even if offensively you may not be there or you’re not a scorer or anything, you can give 100 percent on defence.
“If I can provide that high energy, spur on my team, give them that drive to keep going, I think we can definitely do it.”
By Emma Pearce