The more Vertrail Vaughns thought about all that North Texas has to offer over the last few days, the more coming home to the Dallas-Fort Worth area made sense.
The former Mesquite standout spent four seasons at George Mason and enjoyed some great times at that school before deciding to transfer for his senior year. The 6-foot-2-inch guard had plenty of suitors, but none could offer what UNT could in terms of both his basketball future and his personal life.
Vaughns committed to UNT on Wednesday.
“My gut feeling led me there,” Vaughns said of UNT. “I liked it there and it gives me a chance to be close to my family. I feel like it will be a nice environment.”
Vaughns averaged 5.0 points in 15.3 minutes per game off the bench last season. He started all 33 games for the Patriots as a sophomore in the 2011-12 campaign, when he averaged 8.8 points.
Vaughns said after leaving George Mason that he felt like he had completed his journey at the school after four seasons, including his freshman year in 2009-10, when he received a medical redshirt after undergoing surgery on his left wrist.
UNT has several key guards returning in leading scorer Jordan Williams, starting point guard Chris Jones and a third starter in shooting guard Alzee Williams. UNT also will have shooting guard Brandan Walton back after he missed all but the first game of the 2012-13 season with a broken foot.
Walton received a medical redshirt due to the injury.
UNT will add Paris Junior College standout T.J. Taylor to its backcourt next season. The 6-3 shooting guard sat out last season as a transfer.
UNT did lose point guard P.J. Hardwick and shooting guard Clarke Overlander, who transferred to Arkansas State and Arkansas Tech, respectively, which will open up playing time in the Mean Green’s rotation.
Vaughns believes he will fit in well with UNT’s returning guards.
“They want me to play both guard spots,” Vaughns said. “It’s a good fit for me. If I want to continue my career, I have to be able to handle the ball better. I have a jump shot.”
Vaughns’ abilities as a long-range shooter made him particularly attractive to UNT, which struggled from beyond the arc last season. Vaughns shot 38.5 percent on 3-pointers at George Mason.
UNT shot 28.5 percent as a team last season from 3-point range.
UNT men’s coach Tony Benford has spoken since the end of the season about his desire to spread the floor and play a guard-oriented, up-tempo style.
Vaughns said that philosophy was part of UNT’s recruiting pitch. That sales job was just part of what led him to commit to UNT.
“I feel I will fit in,“ Vaughns said. “When I went on my visit with those guys, I could tell they looked to me as a leader.”
Petersen adds veteran assistant to staff
Karen Blair first caught the eye of UNT women’s basketball coach Mike Petersen more than a decade ago.
Petersen was the head coach at TCU in the 1996-97 season, when Blair was in her first year as the starting point guard for SMU. The two met in one of the epic battles of the SMU-TCU series, a 127-125 marathon that went four overtimes.
The pair talked a little about that game over the last few weeks and will have plenty of additional time to reflect now that Blair has joined Petersen’s staff as an assistant coach.
UNT announced the move Wednesday.
“I knew her as a great competitor and a really smart point guard and followed her coaching career,“ Petersen said. “I thought she fit a need. She will be great coaching our guards. She is a really good teacher and played the position. She also has really good recruiting connections in DFW.“
Blair spent the last two seasons at Texas-Arlington and was the Mavericks’ interim head coach for the final eight games of last season. She also spent two seasons at Colgate and 10 at SMU.
Blair replaced Cayla Petree, who left to become the head coach at Angelo State, and joins UNT at a time of transition. UNT is joining Conference USA next season and is in the midst of a series of program upgrades.
UNT just opened the Ernie Kuehne Basketball Practice Facility and is in the process of installing a new scoreboard at the Super Pit.
“I’ve played against coach Petersen and known him for a long time,” Blair said. “I’m excited to get the opportunity to work for him. There are also a lot of good things going on here with upgrades like the new scoreboard. It was the right time and the right place.”
The fact that Blair knows the North Texas region so well was particularly intriguing for Petersen.
Three of UNT’s starters last season were from the area, including Laura McCoy. UNT’s starting point guard signed with the Mean Green out of Flower Mound.
UNT also has signed two players from the region for its 2013 class during the early signing period — Candice Adams of Cedar Hill and Terra Ellison of The Colony.
“Those relationships you establish and being a name people know is really important,” Petersen said. “She has a network. People know her. There were a number of high school and summer coaches who said she had done a great job recruiting their kids when they found out we were talking to her.”
Blair said she is looking forward to using those contacts while continuing the DFW Division I basketball tour — coaching at SMU, UTA and now UNT.
“I’m very familiar with the Metroplex,” Blair said. “It’s a hotbed for recruiting and a great place to be for basketball coaches.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6970.