Nobody should be more concerned about the Orange’s post-season ban than Rakeem Christmas. Christmas, as the only scholarship senior currently in the rotation, now has to use the team’s eight remaining games to prove that he is NBA-worthy.
Currently, Christmas is expected to be drafted sometime in the first round. As one of the most offensively polished centers in the country, Rak could sneak his way into the lottery if he puts up big numbers against the premiere opponents that the Orange has to play.
In the Orange’s first game since self-imposing a postseason ban, Christmas tied a game high of 23 points on an always-efficient 9-of-13 shooting. He also added 12 rebounds and six blocks. Rak was limited by foul trouble during the last ten minutes of the game, but managed to play a full 40 minutes in a hostile environment. On the season, he is averaging 18.3 points per game and 9.1 boards per game, despite being double-teamed every time he gets the ball in the post.
Next Saturday, Christmas will face his biggest test, Duke’s freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, considered by many to be the player of the year, has put up huge numbers on the offensive side of the ball, and is improving defensively. If Christmas is able to score consistently against Okafor and bottle him up at the rim, he will really get the attention of NBA scouts.
Aside from Duke, Christmas will have a chance to square off with Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, another premiere big man at the Dome, Virginia, and Notre Dame.
Christmas has to excel at the conclusion of the Orange’s season because he will not be able to make an impression in either the NCAA tournament or the ACC tournament. SU has seen players like Gerry McNamara take over in a conference tournament before and carry the team to the championship.
However, Rakeem Christmas’ collegiate career will come to an end on March 7. The NCAA men’s final will take place on April 6, and the 2015 NBA Draft will be on June 25. This leaves a lot of time between Rakeem’s last game and draft night, which means his impression will need to be even stronger.
Posted: Jason Weingold