College Basketball Nation: Josh Henderson

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.

3-point shot: Replacing Festus Ezeli

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
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1. Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli's six-game suspension to start the season for accepting a meal and a hotel room from an alumnus should be characterized as a mistake. It is not a trend by a player who has done everything right to get to this point. But the experienced Commodores' can absorb losing Ezeli early in the season. Vandy coach Kevin Stalling said he’ll look to Steve Tchiengang or Josh Henderson to replace Ezeli inside. Tchiengang is more than capable. The ‘Dores are loaded at the wings with Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins, but Ezeli offered up balance for the top-10 ‘Dores. He’ll be back against Xavier on Nov. 28. But his absence could help Texas in a potential matchup if the two teams meet on Nov. 21 in the Legends Classic at the Meadowlands. Vandy would need to beat NC State and Texas would need to take care of Oregon State in the semifinals.

2. Kansas coach Bill Self said the loss of freshmen forwards Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor “kills our depth.” McLemore and Traylor were declared partial qualifiers by the NCAA. Neither player can practice or compete in the fall, but they can practice in the spring. If they maintain their eligibility then they would be able to play in games in 2012-13. Kansas’ 2011 newcomer class was ranked No. 22 by ESPNU’s recruiting site. The four-player class is now cut in half with point guard Naadir Tharpe and power forward Braeden Anderson the remaining pair. The loss of McLemore and Traylor will put even more pressure on players like Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey to stay on the court with Thomas Robinson when needed.

3. The NCAA Division I leadership council meeting on Oct. 13 produced some likely precursors for the men’s basketball recruiting calendar model that should go into legislation some time this year. Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, NABC second vice president, said he expects them to be in place. The most significant changes would be working with your own players in the summer, cutting the July recruiting period from 20 days (two 10-day periods) to 12 days (three four-day periods Wed-Sun) and getting a few weekends in April back to recruit.

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