First things first: Merry Christmas to all of those in Orange Nation celebrating today. As it is Christmas, what better way to celebrate than to provide an update on Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas and other former Syracuse players who are in the pros.
Rakeem Christmas, Fort Wayne Mad Ants (NBA D-League)
Obviously, it only makes sense to start with this man, who was so crucial to the Syracuse team last season. Christmas bounced around a lot before he even played a game. He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2nd round, only to have his rights traded to the Caviliers only to be traded to the Indiana Pacers. However, Rak has found a home in the Pacers’ organization. He has started all 15 games for the Pacers’ D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. In just over 33 minutes per game, Christmas is averaging 18 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Throw in 2.5 blocks per game and his stat line is certainly impressive. The big man is still waiting for his first shot in the NBA, bu.t his performances in the D-League will certainly help his chances of making an NBA roster in the near future.
C.J. Fair, Fort Wayne Mad Ants (NBA D-League)
Fair is a player who like Christmas, was never a flashy superstar at Syracuse but was certainly the heart and soul of the team. Now, after being teammates for three years in Central New York, Fair is reunited with Christmas is the Pacers’ organization. Fair is playing similar minutes to Christmas as he has started 14 of the Mad Ants 15 games. The forward is averaging almost 33 minutes, over 12 points and over 7 rebounds per game. His numbers are not quite as impressive as Christmas’ but they are definitely solid. Fair went undrafted in 2014 and, like Christmas, is still waiting for his first chance at the NBA.
Jerami Grant, Philadelphia 76ers
Orange fans will remember Grant fondly for his role in the team that flew out of the gate to a 25-0 start. They will remember him less fondly for leaving Syracuse early and declaring for the NBA Draft that season. While he is in the NBA, he is on the lowly 1-30 76ers so he has, naturally, received just about as much media coverage as the D-Leaguers. He has played in all of the Sixers 31 games, averaging 9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. In short, while he is on a team that is looking like the worst in NBA history, he has proven himself a legitimate NBA player. There is no way to know what kind of minutes he would get on a team that isn’t sitting on one win with little interest in winning anymore but he has seized the opportunity presented to him.
Of course, there are several other former Syracuse players in the NBA. Tyler Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams, Dion Waiters, Wesley Johnson and Carmelo Anthony are all regulars in the NBA and Chris McCullough is on an NBA roster as he recovers from his knee injury. However, since it is Christmas it seemed like it would only be Fair to Grant some of the lesser talked about players some love.