One thought flashed through Khyri Thomas' mind when he found out that he and four teammates were headed to New York this week.
"It was like, 'Freshman vacation!' " he said with a laugh.
Thomas and Creighton's four other scholarship freshmen — Justin Patton, Martin Krampelj, Marlon Stewart and Ronnie Harrell — will take in some of the Big Apple's sights while in Manhattan over the weekend.
The purpose of their trip, though, is to participate in the first Big East Freshmen Fundamentals Program. All 10 conference schools will send scholarship and walk-on freshmen to the Saturday and Sunday seminar.
"We're still a little confused about what they're going to be talking about," Thomas said, "but we know it's going to be a little more serious than some freshman vacation."
In announcing the program, Stu Jackson, the Big East's senior associate commissioner for men's basketball, said it is designed to help players transition from high school to college.
Jackson said the program "will offer a variety of strategies (players) can use in college — both on and off the court — and later in life."
Steve Merfeld, a Creighton assistant coach, will accompany the five student-athletes on the trip.
While in New York, the players will hear from former Big East players and Jim O'Brien, a former NBA head coach with the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. Players also will receive training in dealing with reporters and hear from an expert in etiquette and personal branding.
"A lot of this is covered on college campuses individually, but I think the global picture from the Big East standpoint is helpful," coach Greg McDermott said. "To my knowledge, we're the only league that is doing something like this.
"Obviously, we're making a statement that welfare of our student-athletes is very important and anything we can do to help them adjust to college life is our responsibility."
McDermott served on a committee that helped select the presenters who will take part in the program.
Tarik Turner, a former St. John's guard who has enjoyed a successful career in broadcasting and finance, will moderate a panel of ex-players and also lead a separate discussion on how to take advantage of the educational, social and career-planning opportunities offered by Big East schools.
Greg Monroe of the Milwaukee Bucks and Randy Foye of the Denver Nuggets will serve on the panel. Monroe earned Big East rookie of the year honors while playing for Georgetown, while Foye was the 2006 conference player of the year.
O'Brien will address the student-athletes on what professional coaches are looking for from college players, ways to get ahead of the competition and how best to utilize a collegiate career.
Dan Broden, an expert in communications and presentation skills, will conduct the media-training session. DeNita Turner of Image Builders Inc. will host a panel on creating a positive image.
"I think this is going to be helpful in learning how to react to situations we might find ourselves in," Thomas said. "They give us a lot of freedom over here, and this will help us learn what and what not to do."
The players will tour the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan. They also will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of Madison Square Garden, site of the conference tournament each March.
Thomas, who spent last season at a prep school after graduating from Omaha Benson, will be making his first trip to New York. He said he's particularly looking forward to visiting the September 11 museum.
McDermott also hopes the tour of the Garden will benefit the players in March. In each of the Bluejays' first two seasons in the Big East, Creighton played at the Garden twice, facing St. John's there during the regular season and then returning for the tournament.
This season, the Bluejays will play St. John's at the school's campus arena.
"At least when they get there in March, they won't be in awe of Madison Square Garden," McDermott said. "At least they've been there, seen it and got to experience it.
"It also will be another opportunity for the freshmen to spend time together away from campus. They'll get to travel together and eat together. I think it will be a good experience for them."
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