New Jersey

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Lunchables, brownies and election fraud: Maly will ask administration to investigate Rotnofsky-Mandalapu

In a hearing Wednesday night, the Election Supervisory Board penalized Executive Alliance candidates Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu for failing to disclose the purchase of roses, Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies and Lunchables on their campaign finance forms. Defeated presidential candidate David Maly said he now intends to ask Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly and the Student Government Judicial Court to investigate the possibility of election fraud.

Although Rotnofsky and Mandalapu will not be required to pay a fine, their campaign spending limit will be reduced by 10 percent, or $102, from their original $1,020 limit.

“The Election Supervisory Board has determined that the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign did fail to disclose the cost of New Jersey pink roses, brownies, and lunchables given out to candidates at the candidate debate, and this failure to report shall result in a Class A violation and levy of a 10% fine,” the board’s resolution read.

Maly, who filed the complaint, said he inquired about Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s financial disclosures after the SG debate last week. During the debate, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu served snacks to the debate moderators and to the other candidates, including Maly, and also gifted each with a “New Jersey pink rose.”

Maly said he was not satisfied with the ESB’s handling of the complaint. He alleges that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu originally disclosed the cost of the Lunchables, but not the roses or the Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies. Although the cost of the Lunchables was deleted from the disclosure documents after what a board member described as an "administrative error," Maly said he believes Rotnofsky and Mandalapu clearly understood that all three items, which add up to less than $30, should have been disclosed. Further, Maly said, he believes the Lunchables' removal from the document was "no accident."

Maly said at the hearing, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu repeatedly claimed they didn't realize any of the purchases should be disclosed, and therefore did not disclose them, though records show they did originally include the Lunchables.

“I think it’s clear that there’s fraud going on,” Maly said.

Rotnofsky said he did not realize the under-$30 purchase would count as a campaign cost because he gave the brownies and flowers to the other candidates to be nice.

“It was as a gesture of goodwill to the other candidates and moderators because it was going to be a long debate,” Rotnofsky said. “It was not to advance our campaign or our campaign prospects.”

According to their campaign finance documents, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu have spent a total of $53.88 on their campaign  for two domain names and six bags of Hershey’s Kisses. Mandalapu said adding the New Jersey pink roses, Lunchables and brownies to their expenses would still put them at under one-fifteenth of the total allotted spending amount. 

Maly is simultaneously pursuing a complaint against Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, the other candidates in the runoff election. To read more about his second allegation of wrongdoing, click here.

For a full recap of platform points, candidate descriptions and Texan coverage of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign, click here.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information since its original publication. The headline has been changed.

WASHINGTON  — With a solemnity reserved for momentous occasions, the Senate passed historic legislation Thursday offering the priceless hope of citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in America's shadows. The bill also promises a military-style effort to secure the long-porous border with Mexico.

The bipartisan vote was 68-32 on a measure that sits atop President Barack Obama's second-term domestic agenda. Even so, the bill's prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-controlled House, where conservatives generally oppose citizenship for immigrants living in the country unlawfully.

Spectators in galleries that overlook the Senate floor watched expectantly as senators voted one by one from their desks. Some onlookers erupted in chants of "Yes, we can" after Vice President Joe Biden announced the bill's passage.

After three weeks of debate, there was no doubt about the outcome. Fourteen Republicans joined all 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill.

In a written statement, Obama coupled praise for the Senate's action with a plea for resolve by supporters as the House works on the issue. "Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen," said the president, who was traveling in Africa.

In the final hours of debate, members of the so-called Gang of 8, the group that drafted the measure, frequently spoke in personal terms while extolling the bill's virtues, rebutting its critics — and appealing to the House members who turn comes next.

"Do the right thing for America and for your party," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who said his mother emigrated to the United States from Cuba. "Find common ground. Lean away from the extremes. Opt for reason and govern with us."

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said those seeking legal status after living in the United States illegally must "pass a background check, make good on any tax liability and pay a fee and a fine." There are other requirements before citizenship can be obtained, he noted.

He, too, spoke from personal experience, recalling time he spent as a youth working alongside family members and "undocumented migrant labor, largely from Mexico, who worked harder than we did under conditions much more difficult than we endured."

Since then, he said, "I have harbored a feeling of admiration and respect for those who have come to risk life and limb and sacrifice so much to provide a better life for themselves and their families."

The bill's opponents were unrelenting, if outnumbered.

"We will admit dramatically more people than we ever have in our country's history at a time when unemployment is high and the Congressional Budget Office has told us that average wages will go down for 12 years, that gross national product per capita will decline for 25-plus years, that unemployment will go up," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

"The amnesty will occur, but the enforcement is not going to occur, and the policies for future immigration are not serving the national interest."

In the Senate, at least, the developments marked an end to years of gridlock onimmigration. The shift began taking shape quickly after the 2012 presidential election, when numerous Republican leaders concluded the party must show a more welcoming face to Hispanic voters who had given Obama more than 70 percent of their support.

Even so, division among Republicans was evident as potential 2016 presidential contenders split. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was one of the Gang of 8, while Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas were opposed to the bill.

The legislation's chief provisions includes numerous steps to prevent future illegalimmigration — some added in a late compromise that swelled Republican support for the bill — and to check on the legal status of job applicants already living in the United States. At the same time, it offers a 13-year path to citizenship to as many as 11 million immigrants now living in the country unlawfully.

Under the deal brokered last week by Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee and the Gang of 8, the measure requires 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, the completion of 700 miles of fencing and deployment of an array of high-tech devices along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Those living in the country illegally could gain legal status while the border security plan was being implemented, but would not be granted permanent resident green cards or citizenship.

A plan requiring businesses to check on the legal status of prospective employees would be phased in over four years.

Other provisions would expand the number of visas available for highly skilled workers relied upon by the technology industry. A separate program would be established for lower-skilled workers, and farm workers would be admitted under a temporary program. In addition, the system of legal immigration that has been in effect for decades would be changed, making family ties less of a factor and elevating the importance of education, job skills and relative youth.

With the details of the Senate bill well-known, House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference the separate legislation the House considers will have majority support among Republicans. He also said he hopes the bill will be bipartisan, and he encouraged a group of four Democrats and three Republicans trying to forge a compromise to continue their efforts.

He offered no details on how a House bill could be both bipartisan and supported by more than half of his own rank and file, given that most of the bills that have moved through the House Judiciary Committee recently did so on party line votes over the protests of Democrats. None envisions legal status for immigrants now in the country illegally.

Boehner declined to say if there were circumstances under which he could support a pathway to citizenship, but he made clear that securing the border was a priority.

"People have to have confidence that the border is secure before anything else is really going to work. Otherwise, we repeat the mistakes of 1986," he said, referring to the last time Congress overhauled the immigration system.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, also said he favors a bipartisan approach. At the same time, she noted that Democratic principles forimmigration include "secure our borders, protect our workers, unite families, a path to legalization and now citizenship for those" without legal status.

While the outcome of the Senate vote was not in doubt, supporters scrambled to maximize the vote and fell short of 70, a level they had talked of reaching. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday night as he lobbied — successfully — for the vote of the state's Republican Sen. Jeff Chiesa, whom the governor appointed to his seat.

John Papanier, 12, directs traffic on a street congested by vehicles during cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, N.Y. Residents of New York’s Staten Island borough are noticing something new as they and volunteers work to clear the remains of storm-damaged homes: gawkers. Cruising by in cars or walking through streets snapping photos, these are people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse what they've seen on television come to life.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Garbage trucks, hulking military vehicles and mud-caked cars move slowly through a Staten Island waterfront neighborhood still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge. Then comes an outlier: a spotless SUV with three passengers peering out windows at a mangled home choked with sea grass.

Residents recognize the occupants right away. They’re disaster tourists, people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse the pictures they’ve seen on television come to life.

Two weeks after the superstorm socked the region, cleanup continues in New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the destruction. At its peak, the storm knocked out power to 8.5 million in 10 states, and some during a later nor’easter. About 73,000 utility customers in New York and New Jersey remained without power late Sunday, most of them on Long Island.

But the storm didn’t just bring darkness and despair; it also brought the gawkers.

Seaver Avenue on Staten Island was sloppy with mud, sand and curbside mounds of couches, personal photos, mattresses and sodden sheetrock. Mickey Merrell’s front porch was askew, and the storm surge nearly knocked a neighbor’s house into hers. Across the street a house was washed off its foundation. It was a scene of human misery — and one of New York City’s new attractions, like the construction crane that collapsed and dangled high above mid-town Manhattan on Oct. 29.

“Sometimes it’s like we’re at the zoo,” Merrell said. “So many people come and stop and stare at this place.”

Domenick and Kim Barone said they could tell the tourists apart from the volunteers because the gawkers’ clothes and shoes are clean, and they’re often snapping pictures.

Peter Lisi, a renter who is fighting a landlord trying to evict him from his damaged home, said he doesn’t mind the gawkers, “as long as they’re not making fun.” Some of them are drawn in to what’s happening and help, he said.

 

Waves crash into a seawall and buildings along the coast in Hull, Mass., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. A nor’easter blustered into New York, New Jersey and western Massachusetts on Wednesday with rain and wet snow, plunging homes in New York and New Jersey right back into darkness in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — A nor’easter blustered into New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with rain and wet snow, plunging homes right back into darkness, stopping commuter trains again and inflicting another round of misery on thousands of people still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s blow more than a week ago.

Under ordinary circumstances, a storm of this sort wouldn’t be a big deal, but large swaths of the landscape were still an open wound, with the electrical system highly fragile and many of Sandy’s victims still mucking out their homes and cars and shivering in the deepening cold.

Exactly as authorities feared, the nor’easter brought down tree limbs and electrical wires, and utilities in New York and New Jersey reported that nearly 60,000 customers who lost power because of Sandy lost it all over again as a result of the nor’easter.

Mark L. Fendrick, of Staten Island, tweeted Wednesday night: “My son had just got his power back 2 days ago now along comes this nor’easter and it’s out again.”

John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City, said, “I know everyone’s patience is wearing thin.”

As the nor’easter closed in, thousands of people in low-lying neighborhoods staggered by the superstorm just over a week ago were urged to clear out. Authorities warned that rain and 60 mph gusts in the evening and overnight could topple trees wrenched loose by Sandy and erase some of the hard-won progress made in restoring power to millions of customers.

“I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. “We may take a setback in the next 24 hours.”

Ahead of the storm, public works crews in New Jersey built up dunes to protect the stripped and battered coast, and new evacuations were ordered in a number of communities already emptied by Sandy. New shelters opened.

In New York City, police went to low-lying neighborhoods with loudspeakers, urging residents to leave. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t issue mandatory evacuations, and many people stayed behind, some because they feared looting, others because they figured whatever happens couldn’t be any worse than what they have gone through already.

“We’re petrified,” said James Alexander, a resident of the hard-hit Rockaways section of Queens. “It’s like a sequel to a horror movie.”

Forecasters said the nor’easter would bring moderate coastal flooding, with storm surges of about 3 feet possible Wednesday into Thursday — far less than the 8 to 14 feet Sandy hurled at the region. The storm’s winds were expected to be well below Sandy’s, which gusted to 90 mph.

By evening, the storm had created a slushy mess in the streets in the metropolitan area. Eight-foot waves crashed on the beaches in New Jersey, which was lashed with a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow.

Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the victims in New York and New Jersey.

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — One storm-battered New Jersey county was delivering ballots to emergency shelters Monday while New York City was lining up shuttle buses to ferry people in hard-hit coastal areas to the polls. With the presidential election looming just a week after Superstorm Sandy’s devastation, authorities were scrambling to make voting as manageable as possible while election watchers warned any shortcuts could compromise the integrity of the balloting.

Election officials in both New Jersey and New York were guardedly optimistic that power would be restored and most polling places would be open in all but the worst-hit areas for Tuesday’s election. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called “affidavit,” or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders, an opportunity New Jersey was extending to voters as well.

“Compared to what we have had to deal with in the past week, this will be a walk in the park when it comes to voting,” Cuomo said.

Affidavit or provisional ballots are counted after elected officials confirm a voter’s eligibility.

A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise dangles precariously over the streets after collapsing in high winds from Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in New York. Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard’s largest cities Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds, soaking rain and a surging wall of water up to 11 feet tall.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline with 80 mph winds and hurled a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City on Monday, roaring ashore after washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk and putting the presidential campaign on hold.

Just before its center reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical. It still packed hurricane-force wind, and forecasters were careful to say it remained every bit as dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.

The National Hurricane Center announced at 8 p.m. that Sandy had come ashore about five miles from Atlantic City. The sea surged a record of nearly 13 feet at the Battery, at the foot of Manhattan.

As it closed in, Sandy knocked out power to more than 1.5 million people and smacked the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor — Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of more than 85 mph.

Sandy, which killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic, began to hook left at midday toward the New Jersey coast.

The storm lost its status as hurricane because it no longer had a warm core center nor the convection, but it was still just as dangerous, according to National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

While the hurricane’s winds registered as only a Category 1 on a scale of five, it packed “astoundingly low” barometric pressure, giving it terrific energy to push water inland, said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at MIT.

“We are looking at the highest storm surges ever recorded in the Northeast,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service.

If the storm reaches the higher estimate of $20 billion in damage, that would put it ahead of Hurricane Irene, which raked the Northeast in August 2011 and caused $16 billion in damage. Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people, cost $108 billion.

Printed on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 as: Sandy surges over Atlantic coast

A car goes through the high water as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, Sunday in Ocean City, Md. Governors from North Carolina, where steady rains were whipped by gusting winds Saturday night, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KENSINGTON, Md. — The projected storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is a “worst case scenario” with devastating waves and tides predicted for the highly populated New York City metro area, government forecasters said Sunday.

The more they observe it, the more the experts worry about the water — which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes.

In this case, seas will be amped up by giant waves and full-moon-powered high tides. That will combine with drenching rains, triggering inland flooding as the hurricane merges with a winter storm system that will worsen it and hold it in place for days.

Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy’s due east-to-west track into New Jersey, that puts the worst of the storm surge just north in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. “Yes, this is the worst case scenario,” he said.

In a measurement of pure kinetic energy, NOAA’s hurricane research division Sunday ranked the surge and wave “destruction potential” for Sandy — just the hurricane, not the hybrid storm it will eventually become — at 5.8 on a 0 to 6 scale. The damage expected from winds will be far less, experts said. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters says that surge destruction potential number is a record and it’s due to the storm’s massive size.

“You have a lot of wind acting over a long distance of water for hundreds of miles” and that piles the storm surge up when it finally comes ashore, Masters said. Even though it doesn’t pack much power in maximum wind speed, the tremendous size of Sandy — more than 1,000 miles across with tropical storm force winds — adds to the pummelling power when it comes ashore, he said.

The storm surge energy numbers are bigger than the deadly 2005 Hurricane Katrina, but that can be misleading. Katrina’s destruction was concentrated in a small area, making it much worse, Masters said.

Sandy’s storm surge energy is spread over a wider area. Also, Katrina hit a city that is below sea level and had problems with levees.

Rick Knabb, National Hurricane Center Director said Hurricane Sandy’s size means some coastal parts of New York and New Jersey may see water rise from 6 to 11 feet from surge and waves. The rest of the coast north of Virginia can expect 4 to 8 feet of surge.

The full moon Monday will add 2 to 3 inches to the storm surge in New York, Masters said.

“If the forecasts hold true in terms of the amount of rainfall and the amount of coastal flooding, that’s going to be what drives up the losses and that’s what’s going to hurt,” said Susan Cutter, director of the hazards and vulnerability research institute at the University of South Carolina.

Cutter said she worries about coastal infrastructure, especially the New York subways, which were shutting down Sunday night.

Klaus Jacob, a Columbia University researcher who has advised the city on coastal risks, said, “We have to prepare to the extent we can, but I’m afraid that from a subway point of view, I think it’s beyond sheer preparations. I do not think that there’s enough emergency measures that will help prevent the subway from flooding.”

Knabb said millions of people may be harmed by inland flooding. A NOAA map of inland and coastal flood watches covers practically the entire Northeast: all of Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut; most of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont, and parts of northeastern Ohio, eastern Virginia, North Carolina, and western New Hampshire.

Along the mid-Atlantic coast, storm surge is already starting to build, Uccellini said. NOAA’s Coastal Services Center chief Margaret Davidson said to expect “bodacious impacts” from both surge and inland flooding.

The surge — in which water steadily increases from the ocean— will be worst in the areas north of where Sandy comes ashore.

New York will have the most intense storm surge if Sandy comes ashore anywhere in New Jersey, Uccellini said. Only if it arrives farther south, such as Delaware, will New York see a slightly, only slightly, smaller storm surge.

In general, areas to the south and west of landfall will get the heaviest of rains. Some areas of Delaware and the Maryland and Virginia peninsula will see a foot of rain over the several days the storm parks in the East, Uccellini said. The rest of the mid-Atlantic region may see closer to 4 to 8 inches, NOAA forecasts.

The good news about inland flooding is that the rivers and ground aren’t as saturated as they were last year when Hurricane Irene struck, causing nearly $16 billion in damage, much of it from inland flooding in places like Vermont, Uccellini and Masters said.

The storm, which threatens roughly 50 million in the eastern third of the country, began as three systems. Two of those — an Arctic blast from the north and a normal winter storm front with a low-pressure trough— have combined. Hurricane Sandy will meld with those once it comes ashore, creating a hybrid storm with some of the nastier characteristics of a hurricane and a nor’easter, experts have said.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has ruled that jailers may subject people arrested for minor offenses to invasive strip searches, siding with security needs over privacy rights.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court ruled against a New Jersey man who complained that strip searches in two county jails violated his civil rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion for the court’s conservative justices that when people are going to be put into the general jail population, “courts must defer to the judgment of correctional officials unless the record contains substantial evidence showing their policies are an unnecessary or unjustified response to problems of jail security.”

In a dissenting opinion joined by the court’s liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer said strip searches improperly “subject those arrested for minor offenses to serious invasions of their personal privacy.”

Albert Florence was forced to undress and submit to strip searches following his arrest on a warrant for an unpaid fine, though the fine actually had been paid. Even if the warrant had been valid, failure to pay a fine is not a crime in New Jersey.

Published on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Court rules for strip searched of anyone arrested for any offense

Senior Alexis Wangmene (20) had a career high in scoring with 11 points against OSU.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Texas struggled a bit in its first road trip this season, falling to Oregon State 100-95 in overtime Saturday night. But with a team that counts six freshmen among its key players, that’s not too surprising.

The Longhorns (2-1) held a lead over the Beavers for the majority of the game, including a 72-64 advantage with a little more than seven minutes left. But behind Jared Cunningham, who scored 37 points, the Beavers came roaring back. Cunningham made two free throws to send the game into overtime and then, after OSU made two three-pointers, made two more.

“Any player that shoots that is going to have a [good] game,” said UT point guard Myck Kabongo. “He got to the line 23 times, and you can’t stop that.”

Texas was led in scoring by J’Covan Brown, who had 25 points.

The game — at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., as part of the TicketCity Legends Classic — was a homecoming of sorts for three Longhorns who all had ties to the Garden State. Kabongo played two seasons at St. Benedict’s, Alexis Wangmene played one year at the Blair Academy, and Sterling Gibbs hails from the area.

Wangmene scored a career-high 11 points and snatched four rebounds.

Texas will try and bounce back today against North Carolina State.

Printed on Monday, November 21, 2011 as: Oregon State hands young team first loss in overtime

A native of Scotch Plains, N.J., Sterling Gibbs will head back to his home state when the Longhorns take on Oregon State Saturday.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

For the 10th season in a row, the Longhorns have started the season 2-0. After two convincing home wins, Texas now heads to East Rutherford, N.J., to compete in the championship rounds of the TicketCity Legends Classic. Texas will play Oregon State on Saturday evening in the IZOD Center, the former home of the New Jersey Nets. Since Texas was selected as a regional host for the tournament, it will automatically advance no matter the result against the Beavers. North Carolina State and Vanderbilt also played host and will advance as well. This will be the sixth meeting between the Longhorns and Beavers, with Texas holding a 4-1 series lead.

The Longhorns’ quick start can be largely accredited to the play of the six new freshmen, two of which have experience playing on the Eastern seaboard.

Point guards Myck Kabongo and Sterling Gibbs both spent time in high school around the New Jersey area. Kabongo played at St. Benedict’s Prep for a year before transferring to Findlay Prep, another prestigious basketball school located in Las Vegas. Essentially New Jersey is Kabongo’s third home, after his hometown of Ontario, then Las Vegas.

The tournament will be a homecoming of sorts for Gibbs. He was born in Scotch Plains, N.J., and played his high school basketball in nearby West Orange, N.J. In his senior season, Gibbs averaged 21 points, four assists and two steals per game. He’s very familiar with the area and is excited to play near his old stomping grounds.

“I’m expecting family [in New Jersey]. And friends. Hopefully, I’ll get some good playing time in front of them but that doesn’t matter so much as we bring the trophy back with us,” Gibbs said.

“I’ve never played in the IZOD Center, played in Prudential Center but not that one.”

Senior forward Alexis Wangmene also has ties to the area. After playing for two years at Central Catholic in San Antonio, he spent his senior season at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. Former Longhorn and current assistant also attended Blair Academy. Wangmene holds the honor of being one of the most experienced players on the team, and he knows the importance of early season tournaments such as the Legends Classic.

“These are the kind of games that get you ready for the Big 12,” Wangmene said. “It’s such a pleasure to go back to New Jersey.”

This will be the first road test for the six Texas freshmen. Playing under the lights of the IZOD Center will be an eye-opening experience for the young players.

“I’m anxious, if anything,” Gibbs said. “Going to the airport, getting out of class early, spending the weekend with your teammates. We have a really strong bond.”

Gibbs has averaged almost 12 minutes of playing time through the first two games of the season, but he knows he could be called upon at any time to produce for his team.

“I’m still learning the game,” Gibbs said. “All coaches expect things from freshmen, so I have to work on some things.”

With J’Covan Brown’s recent point-surge, Gibbs may not have to become a star just yet, but the talent is certainly there — it’s just a matter of him harnessing it.

“Sterling is a very, very good shooter,” said assistant coach Rob Lanier. “With all the young guys, the challenge is to stay on the floor so that you can shoot with confidence, so he needs to get better at some other things so he can stay on the floor.”

Published on Friday, November 18, 2011 as: Freshmen prepare for road trip