- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. St. John's coach Steve Lavin is looking forward to the instructive piece of the Red Storm trip to Italy (Aug. 19-Sept 1). He is viewing this trip as a summer report card on the Red Storm. Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper and God'sgift Achiuwa need competitive games in Europe, according to Lavin, to shake off some of the "rust as a result of sitting out this past season.'' Lavin said highly-touted freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan will get his "baptism as a college athlete in Europe while playing in competitive games and gaining a better sense for his new teammates." Lavin added this trip comes at the ideal time to get new assistant Jimmy Whitesell acclimated with the St. John's team. The Red Storm are in that middle group in the new Big East with Xavier, Butler, Villanova and Providence, with any one of them capable of jumping up and challenging frontrunners Marquette, Creighton and Georgetown.
2. Vanderbilt is practicing in advance of the Commodores foreign trip to Greece and Italy Aug. 10-20 and with a number of defections (Sheldon Jeter, A.J. Astroth, Kevin Bright) and a year-long suspension (Kedren Johnson), this trip is critical for Vandy to find out who it will be this season. Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said the trip will be beneficial to Tulsa transfer guard Eric McClellan and forwards Damian Jones and Josh Henderson probably the most. The reason is the responsibilities have shifted. All three will be counted on heavily. But Stallings may be most anticipating to see what Jones, an incoming freshman, can do, adding he "is going to be very good.'' This is a rebuilding season for the Commodores and any added advantage helps.
3. Illinois is still waiting to find out if Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks can get an immediate waiver to play immediately this season rather than sitting out. Starks returned home with the intent on being closer to an ill relative in Chicago. But the University of Illinois is 135 miles from Chicago (depending on what part of Chicago). The waiver is meant to be granted to a within 100 miles of his home. Illinois coach John Groce took Starks knowing he may have to sit to play one. Illinois has Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice and recruited Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill and Jaylon Tate. So, it's not like the Illini don't have anyone to play the position. But Starks would bring immediate experience and depth. It could also mean someone redshirts. Having Starks to balance out classes wouldn't be the worst thing, either.