Going into this season, many were saying that Syracuse senior Rakeem Christmas would need to step up his game if the Orange were to be successful.
He’s answered the call.
Christmas is averaging 16.5 PPG and 8.5 RPG on the year, both career highs and a vast improvement from the 5.8 PPG and 5.1 RPG that he averaged last season. He’s scored in double digits in all but one of the Orange’s games thus far (he had 8 points before fouling out against Cal), and has already accumulated three double-doubles, a feat which he had accomplished once in his first three years. Through 11 games Christmas has scored 182 points, only 15 less than the 197 he scored in 34 games last season.
Coming into the year Christmas had been known primarily for his defensive play; the man in the middle of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. This year, his offense is what’s been making headlines. Christmas has been a gift (pun intended) for a Syracuse team who, after losing C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant, had a hole in the middle offensively. Leading the Orange in both points and rebounds, he’s been one of the only consistent factors Syracuse fans have seen this season.
Part of the reason why Christmas has been doing more is because he has been given a longer leash and more time on the court by Coach Boeheim. Averaging 30 minutes per game, the senior has free reign to shoot as he pleases. Christmas took only 124 shots in 2013-14, but has already shot 113 times this year. He’s even been so bold as to pull up from behind the arc – the first time he’s done so in his career – in Madison Square Garden against Cal. He missed, but that’s beside the point.
Even better, Christmas’s new identity as a scorer hasn’t led to a decrease in other areas of his game. To go along with points, he’s on pace for career highs in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
This Christmas Eve could also be the eve of an outbreak for Rakeem Christmas. Among the top 10 in the ACC at virtually all scoring and rebounding categories, he’s been one of the conference’s elites. If Christmas can continure this level of excellence through conference play, he’ll be sure to turn heads nationally.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson