This blog has been eagerly anticipating the return of real basketball action; and the summer basketball tours that teams can take every four years is just a little something to whet the appetite. The foreign exhibitions often don't shine a predictive light on the coming season. But they're great team practice and bonding time for a basketball squad, and give the fans a chance to see the players in action. This blog posted a look at some teams that flew to Cancun last year; hopefully the Red Storm players can have as much fun on this trip. We'll be watching the weather.
Today, St. John's put out a release on their upcoming trip to Cancun. The details:
+ The Red Storm will play two games, one against Monterrey Institute of Technology (Mexico's MIT?) and Angeles de Puebla, (from the city of Puebla, which sounds cooler than Cancun for my tastes - famous for their food) in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP), the Mexican League. Probably not great competition, but a chance to see the players against live bodies, and to get them in the mind set of playing games to win. We hope.
+ The sports information people will provide photos, game recaps, and daily journals (so no party videos of Young Mase working his mack, I suppose, unless someone convinces them to keep a recording and then YouTube it), so we know what it's like. After the words have been cleaned up and vetted by a staffer, of course. But still, it's something. Box scores would be nice as well.
+ Once again Coach Roberts is talking about playing faster offensively (along with extending defenses, which will allow for more turnovers with pressure). I've heard that one before; Coach Roberts always sells it like an exciting style is coming. The stats will show that the pace has been similar every year; last year's team actually sped up the normally glacial pace. That might have been all the missed shots and turnovers, though. Then again, Burrell, Kennedy, and Boothe all have shown a willingness to push it at times, and Horne can run with the best of them.
+ Freshmen TyShwan Edmondson and Quincy Roberts will practice for the first time tomorrow, when the fall semester begins; Phil Wait will not see game action as he rehabs from a knee injury from a summer pickup game. HMM. I remember Mason's "minor" injury that kept him out of most of the team's out of conference schedule; Coach Roberts is not a guy to give straight dope on injuries. And knee problems on taller men are always worrisome.
Meanwhile, Edmondson has a lot to prove; he needs to be able to spell Boothe for 10 or so minutes a game to keep the starting point guard relatively fresh, and to play when Boothe gets in foul trouble. And he will get into foul trouble. Roberts can also back up at the point, we hope. And if he can hit from the outside and use his body for defensive good, he'll find himself getting a lot of minutes.
+ Coker's student visa doesn't allow him to travel to Mexico. Damn. He's the one that I wanted to see... there's been talk that Dele is in better, more athletic shape. If he can uncork that short jump shot, flash to the basket and finish hard, clean up errant shots from the forwards, he will make the Red Storm much more effective and draw double teams from Burrell. Better yet, if his defense and positioning improve, the team's defense inside the arc will improve drastically. Last year, the team lacked strong presences inside on offense and defense.
Sean Evans will get some run; perhaps he will have worked on those free throws, his transition game, his offense... he may still have a lot of rise in his learning curve.
+ Otherwise, it's a great experience for the team; hopefully, they have spent the summer better learning how each other plays, and how to push the ball up; last year's team often looked like a set of guys who had never met each other on the basketball court.
Integrating Rob Thomas and DJ Kennedy, especially will be key. Thomas didn't play much last year but showed flashes of skill. And Kennedy was often effective when he took shots, but spent a number of games playing defense and leaving the offense to Mason, who took jump shots where Kennedy would have driven aggressively to the basket.
For his part, Boothe needs to make plays and record steals, and Mason needs to get his shot consistent.