If you never watched a Liberty game until this year, you would fall into the trap like many others who recognize Kia Vaughn’s skill, size and talent as those belonging to a veteran All-Star. Of course, you’d be wrong because Vaughn, only in her third year in the WNBA, was never a starter in the league until this season and hadn’t averaged double digits in points until 2011.
But for her tremendous success and strides to bettering her game this season, Vaughn, the New York native and former Rutgers standout, was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player. She becomes the second straight Liberty player to win the award – Leilani Mitchell brought home the trophy last year – and the fourth player in franchise history to receive the honor.
Vaughn definitely came into her own this season, and it was mostly baptism by fire. After the Liberty lost several key front court players during the past offseason, including the popular forward/center Janel McCarville, Vaughn was thrust into the spotlight. Her position was under brighter lights this year because of the new defensive scheme instituted by first-year Liberty coach John Whisenant. Vaughn did nothing but thrive under those conditions.
She started all of the Liberty’s games this season in the center position and posted career high marks in points per game (10.1), rebounds (6.7), steals (1.2) and assists (1.1). She shot a personal best 49.7 percent from the field, had four double-doubles, and had a streak of 10 straight games with a double-double.
In the final voting for the award, Vaughn received 15 votes from the panel of local and national sportswriters and broadcasters. She beat out second-place finisher and former Rutgers standout Matee Ajavon, of Washington, and Tiffany Jackson, of Tulsa. Ajavon and Jackson each earned 10 votes.
To go along with the honor, Vaughn will receive $5,000 prize money and a special trophy designed by Tiffany and Co.