Rakeem Christmas’ career at the Carrier Dome came to a close Monday night after the Orange went down to No. 2 Virginia, 59-47. We take a look at how Christmas got to where he is and all he has been through at the Loudhouse.
Christmas spent all 4 years playing for the Orange and saw plenty of ups and downs during his time at Syracuse, both individually and as a member of the team. He was a part of a roller coaster season during his freshman year that saw a talented team with a No. 1 ranking, marred by national media coverage over the Bernie Fine investigation. The freshman was then asked to replace Fab Melo during the NCAA Tournament when Melo was suspended for an academic incident. Although Christmas was no Melo, the experience did put Christmas in the spotlight early in his career.
During his sophomore and junior year, Christmas saw an increase in minutes but not necessarily a boost in results. He averaged just 5 points-per-game during both years and saw his fouls start to accumulate without enough offensive production to justify it. Christmas did however see his field goal percentage start to improve as he gained a liking for his hook shot in the paint. He also started to make strides defensively by blocking shots and implementing a physical style of play down low.
But sometimes it pays to stay all 4 years and Christmas is a prime example of doing so. Rakeem did not have a stellar first 3 years at SU. The talent was always there but Christmas had to improve his skills inside the paint to become a major factor. However, he matured year after year and finally became a bona fide leader in his final season as the only senior on the team. The Philadelphia product became an offensive force in the paint and the go-to option for the Orange despite being double-teamed regularly. Christmas more than tripled his average points per game to 17.8 in his final year.
One issue of concern for the Orange was how they were going to react if Christmas got into foul trouble. Not only will Christmas finish with less personal fouls than last year’s total, but he also is doing so with around 200 more minutes on the floor. Granted he will not play in the postseason but the Orange only played three postseason games last year.
In a sport that focuses a lot of attention on one-and-done players, it has been an absolute pleasure to see Rakeem Christmas start from the bottom, work his way through adversity, and improve into the player he has now become during his 4 years on the Hill.
Posted: Zephan Mayell