Rakeem Christmas has started 109 games in three seasons at Syracuse. Even though he has been a stable of the starting five, his role is set to expand in his final collegiate season.
With the loss of C.J. Fair, Baye Moussa Keita and Jerami Grant on the frontline, the Syracuse offense will make more of a concerted effort to get the 6-foot-9 center the ball this season.
“I don’t think we were really able to get a good indication of just how good he was offensively because we have not really gotten him the ball the way we’ve gotten other guys the ball,” Jim Boeheim said during ACC Media Day (via Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com). “And that’s not unusual for a big guy. Arinze (Onuaku) didn’t really get the ball that much until his last year when he had a very good year.”
Christmas averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game as a junior. But Christmas will no longer split time with Fair, Keita and Grant. There is also uncertainty about the status of DaJuan Coleman, as well. Boeheim told reporters he could see Christmas’ minutes could spike to around 30 minutes a game.
During the 2010-2011 season, Cuse big man Rick Jackson saw his play time go from 26 minutes to just under 36, and saw his scoring average jump to 13.1 points per game. It remains to be seen if that will be the blueprint to Christmas’ final campaign, but he has adopted Jackson’s baby hook shot.
“I’ve been working on getting the ball in the post, making stronger moves. The little baby hook. I shoot the free-throw jumper now. I’m more comfortable shooting jump shots,” Christmas said. “But like I said, it’s just being more assertive, just going at the basket. Coach is starting to put the ball down there a little bit, from the free-throw line down, and so that’s what I’ve been trying to do. This year, coach is trying to make a big effort to get the ball in the post.”
Syracuse opens the season on Nov. 14 against Kennesaw State.