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August 26, 2008

Red Storm get early test in Cancun

QUEENS, N.Y. - The new-look St. John's basketball team will get an early test as head coach Norm Roberts and the squad take a trip to Cancun, Mexico, this coming Labor Day weekend.

The Red Storm will face a pair of international clubs on Saturday and Sunday of this week as the team continues its offseason preparation for the 2008-09 season.

"Cancun and the time leading up to the trip gives us a chance to work out together early, and form a bond with each other as teammates early," said Roberts. "It is a time also for us to work on some things that will give us a jumpstart to the season. There are some particular things that I want us to become more comfortable with, like playing faster offensively and extending defenses, so we have things that we can try out with our ball club. Our guys are excited about getting together early and getting this season started, after everyone worked so hard this summer at preparing their bodies and improving their games."

In its Labor Day weekend visit to Mexico, St. John's makes its first foreign tour of the Roberts Era, as collegiate teams are allowed one international trip every four years. Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca was the last mentor to lead St. John's on an international trip, as the squad traveled to Spain in the summer of 1991 in advance of All-American Malik Sealy's senior year.

The Red Storm was granted 10 days of team practice in advance of its foreign travel, as per NCAA rules. Freshmen Quincy Roberts and TyShwan Edmondson will practice for the first time with their teammates on Wednesday, Aug. 27, as the fall semester officially begins in Queens.

Four starters and 10 letter winners return for Roberts and the Red Storm in 2008-09, including an All-BIG EAST honorable mention selection in senior Anthony Mason Jr. (14.0 points per game, 4.4 rebounds) and BIG EAST All-Rookie team member Justin Burrell (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Rising sophomore Dele Coker, who has slimmed down to 260 lbs. after an outstanding summer conditioning effort, will not be part of the team travel party because of restrictions on his student visa. Freshman Phil Wait, the Red Storm's new 7-1 center from Manchester, England, may travel with the squad but will not see game action as he rehabs from a minor knee injury suffered during a summer pickup game.

Two competitive contests await the Red Storm in Cancun. On Friday, Aug. 30, St. John's faces Angeles de Puebla, a first division Mexican professional team. On Saturday, Aug. 31, St. John's takes on Monterrey Institute of Technology, widely recognized as having the top university athletics program in the country. Monterrey Tech's basketball team has represented Mexico at the last five World University Games.

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