By JOSH NEWMAN EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Former Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas is getting a long look from a host of teams with just two weeks to go until the NBA Draft. Christmas was here at PNY Center to work out for the Nets on Wednesday morning, marking his 11th NBA visit. Sources told SNY.tv on Wednesday afternoon that Christmas has six more workouts to go. He will visit the Utah Jazz on Sunday, Denver Nuggets on Monday, Houston Rockets on June 17, Washington Wizards on June 18, Cleveland Cavaliers on June 22 and Chicago Bulls on June 23.His workout for the Nets with a group that included Ohio State’s Shannon Scott and Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey, the nation’s leading scorer last season, came only after a traveling nightmare. Christmas worked out for the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, then had his flight to New Jersey canceled. He wound up staying the night in what he termed a ‘bad’ Memphis motel, but it all worked out. “We were out here battling, we were working hard and going at it,” Christmas said. “I’ve been doing good, just playing my heart out, just doing the things I’ve been doing and I just need to keep playing aggressive.” Christmas had a breakout season as a senior for Syracuse, averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 71.2 percent from the foul line. Those numbers have helped his draft stock considerably in the last month. In the latest DraftExpress mock draft released Wednesday morning, Christmas is sitting at No. 38. Just a month ago, he was No. 56. “He’s a solid center prospect, a rim-protector who had a great senior season when he finally got the ball,” one NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He’s not a stretch-4, but more of a putback or extra-possession guy and a 71 percent free-throw shooter in a league where bigs shoot it poorly. “He’s an early second-round pick who could help a team like Golden State (30th pick) or Boston (33rd pick) because they need a shot-blocker.” Christmas and the Orange were in the news plenty last season, but not for something positive. On March 6, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions found that Syracuse did not control and monitor its athletics programs and that head coach Jim Boeheim “failed to monitor his program.”In February, the school self-imposed a postseason ban for this season and won’t face future postseason bans, but it was hit very hard in other areas. Penalties in this case, not including those self-imposed by the school, include five years of probation; financial penalties; reduction of three men’s basketball scholarships per year for four years; vacation of wins in which ineligible students participated; a nine conference-game suspension for Boeheim; and men’s basketball recruiting restrictions for two years. On March 18, Syracuse announced that Boeheim would retire at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Noting he had been to the Final Four as a sophomore in 2013 and three NCAA Tournaments, Christmas shrugged off the disappointing end to his college career, but when it comes to Boeheim, he echoed the same sentiment of incoming recruit Malachi Richardson. Maybe Boeheim isn’t going to call it a career after three seasons.
“I could see it, honestly,” Christmas said. “Syracuse basketball, the zone, that’s him right there, so I don’t think he wants to give it up anytime soon.“I was surprised. He’s really Syracuse, himself. Everyone loves him there and he’s a great coach at that school. I know he doesn’t really want to.” Boeheim is entering his 40th season as Syracuse head coach next season and will be 73 at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Follow Josh Newman on Twitter