Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Syracuse’s Christmas Sees Draft Stock Soar at NBA Combine
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CHICAGO — Perhaps no player saw his stock soar more at the NBA Draft Combine than former Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas.According to DraftExpress.com, Christmas jumped 20 spots to No. 36 from No. 56 as a result of his play this past week in front of NBA personnel at Quest Sports Complex.
“Rakeem Christmas helped himself in Chicago,” one NBA scout in attendance told SNY.tv. “He will be able to play the 4/5 at the next level as he gets stronger. He showed in Chicago that he is a player that can step out and consistently knock down a 15-foot jump shot. He has to become a much more consistent rebounder and energy [guy] as a 4/5. He should be drafted somewhere between 25-40.”
A native of the Virgin Islands, Christmas is a rare example of someone who benefitted by spending four years in college, where his game developed over time under head coach Jim Boeheim.
“I just learned a lot from all the people that was ahead of me, C.J. [Fair], Kris [Joseph], Dion Waiters, Jeremi [Grant], everyone that was ahead of me,” he said. “I just had to wait my turn and everything fell in place my senior year for me.”
Christmas ended up averaging 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds for a Syracuse team that was banned from the postseason.
“He’s an example of a guy staying four years made all the difference,” a second scout told SNY.tv in January. “He would’ve made a mistake if he came out, he wasn’t going to the NBA. But you stay in all four years and work it…It’s interesting. I think he’s a bubble guy now, end of the first, beginning of the second [round].”
Christmas said the postseason ban just motivated him to perform during the regular season.
“Knowing that I couldn’t go to the postseason and play in the tournament, I knew that those last few games was my tournament basically, just to showcase what I could do,” he said. “And we just went out there and played our game.”
On Thursday in Chicago, Christmas went for 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting with six rebounds.
“I was just going out there, just playing and having fun and everything was falling,” he told SNY.tv.
On Friday, he posted 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting and went 7-for-9 from the free throw line.
“A lot of times I could’ve got a lot more rebounds but I was bobbling the ball, but other than that I think I was playing good,” he said.
Christmas met in Chicago with Orlando, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Indiana, among other teams.
“Right now, I heard late-first round or early second-round so in between there probably,” he said of his projected draft status.
Christmas heads to Indiana to work out with the Pacers on Monday and then travels to perform in San Antonio for the Spurs on Wednesday. Christmas will also work out for several other teams, including the Boston Celtics.
“[I’m trying to show] that I can bang with everyone else in the NBA,” he said. “Just go out there and play my game, show that I can shoot and do all the normal things, rebound, block shots.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.