Rakeem Christmas — Meet the 2012 Syracuse basketball team

Christmas will be one of two returning starters

As we count down to the start of the basketball season, we’re going to be highlighting each member of the Syracuse basketball team. Today’s spotlight is on forward Rakeem Christmas.

Consider the cases of Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Fab Melo when thinking of Rakeem Christmas’ upcoming sophomore season.

Will Christmas improve this year?

All three were prized big men, and all came to SU with a long way to go in their basketball development. Their freshmen year went something like this:

  • Onuaku: 29 games, 2.0 points, 2.8 rebounds.
  • Jackson: 35 games, 3.7 points. 3.0 rebounds.
  • Melo: 33 games, 2.3 points. 1.9 rebounds.

There was a steep improvement in their sophomore years:

  • Onuaku: 35 games, 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds.
  • Jackson: 38 games, 8.3 points, 5.8 rebounds.
  • Melo: 30 games, 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds.

» Related: Meet forward James Southerland

So when one looks at Rakeem Christmas’ freshman year numbers, they don’t look as alarming. In 37 games, he averaged 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds, falling perfectly in line with his predecessors.

If Onuaku, Jackson and Melo are any indication, Christmas is in for a significant jump in production this season.

“Mike Hopkins told me he put on about 20 pounds this offseason,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think he’s stronger. I think he’s much more prepared to play this year”

Syracuse already got a good look at its future in the NCAA tournament last year. With Melo deemed ineligible due to a reported academic issue, Christmas started at the center spot, and averaged 21.5 minutes, 5.0 points, and 5.3 rebounds a game, nearly double what he averaged in the regular season.

And that was before he put on the extra muscle.

“Last year I played a lot of Big East games and got pushed around so I had to bulk up a little bit,” Christmas said. “It’s going to help me a lot because I won’t get pushed around.”

Sounds like Christmas is in for a sophomore surge.

“I expect him to have a really good year,” Boeheim said. “I expect him to be ready.”

» Related: Exclusive Q&A with Brandon Triche

Inside Shot: “If we need rebounding, we can play Christmas and Coleman simultaneously. If we want quickness, a Fair, Southerland, Christmas (or Keita) front court makes sense. Options are a good thing, but they also speak to the holes that seem to exist in both Christmas’ and Coleman’s respective games. I have no idea how things will shake out, or when and where either of them will see most of their time, but if we can get consistent production from them (in one form or another), our front-court is going to be in excellent shape.” —Nate Federman


  • Birthdate: October, 1991
  • Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
  • High School: Academy of the New Church
  • Position: Forward/Center
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Height: 6’9″
  • Weight: 228lbs

For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page and follow us @TheJuiceOnline.

About Wes Cheng 2765 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.