Growing up with two heritages


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It has been more than a decade since Chris Vann last visited his mother’s family in South Korea, so he knows this summer’s trip abroad will bring a batch of new experiences.

“They’ll know more about me, what kind of person I am,” said Vann, the leading scorer for Gar-Field and in the entire Cardinal District. “They want to see the grown-up side of me instead of the stubborn little kid.”

Dispatches from Vann’s parents to Korea have mentioned the fact that he’s prospering on the basketball floor and in school. Fluent in Korean since he was a child, Vann’s game now says a lot, too.

The 6-foot, 189-pound shooting guard leads the Indians (13-7 overall, 3-2 in the district) in scoring (21.6 points per game) and steals (2.5). He’s also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

“He scored 19 points his entire freshman year as a seldom-used reserve [for the state Group AAA runner-up in 2001] but he has come a long way and worked very hard to get here,” Gar-Field coach Andy Gray said. “He’s an unselfish kid who still scores a lot of points.”

Chris’ father, Larry, played high school football in Alabama. Larry Vann met his wife, Julia, while he was stationed with the U.S. Army in Korea. The combination of two cultures has been a blessing to Chris, who said, “There aren’t a lot of people here who can get good, home-cooked Korean food on a regular basis,” he said.

The Vanns moved to Prince William County from Massachusetts in 1992. Chris’ older brother, Jon, played high school basketball in that state and introduced him to basketball when he was 4 years old. Though Chris was a running back on the Gar-Field freshman football team in the fall of 2000, he has been dedicated to basketball the past two years.

In the Indians’ last five games — all wins — Vann has averaged 25.2 points. He scored a career-high 36 in a 80-60 home victory over Stonewall Jackson on Feb. 4.

If Gar-Field gets through this weekend without any more losses, it will take the Cardinal District regular-season crown. The Indians and Woodbridge, both 3-2 in the district, square off on the Vikings’ home floor Friday night. The winner of that game will either be district champion or face Hylton in a one-game playoff Saturday.

“Chris has been a good leader and he’s worked hard to prepare himself — both in the weight room and on the court,” Gray said. “The only question now is can he lead us to the district championship? We’ve played ourselves into this position. I think we deserve to be in this position and we have to make the most of the opportunity.”

On a team of dangerous wing players (three other Gar-Field guards have scored at least 15 points in a game), Vann has taken the lead role. Last year, he averaged 10.2 points for a 13-9 club that finished one win short of regional play.

“You’ve got to be on your P’s and Q’s — that’s what the team from two years ago taught me,” Vann said. “They taught me how to be strong and tough. They gave me the basic framework.”

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