Syracuse is in a rebuilding mode.
Several players expected to be around for this season declared for the NBA Draft last spring. The front court depth took a hit with Dajuan Coleman having to redshirt while star freshman Chris McCullough tore his ACL in mid-January. And in February, with an on-going investigation for alleged NCAA violations, Syracuse self-imposed a postseason ban on a season that wasn’t likely destined for the NCAA tournament.
The bright spot during the 2014-15 year has been the emergence of Rakeem Christmas. The 6-foot-9 senior forward, who started 109 games entering this season, has put together an All-American caliber season with his scoring average jumping from 5.8 points to 18.1, in addition to his 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
On Thursday night, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, during a radio interview with TK99, recycled a classic rant to describe Christmas’ importance to this team.
The interview was transcribed by Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com:
“I can make the same statement this year,” Boeheim said. “Without Rakeem we wouldn’t win 10 games. That’s pretty much for sure. Gerry [McNamara] might have been a little bit of an exaggeration, but Rakeem Christmas, no. Without him we wouldn’t have won 10 games. He’s been such a force for us all year, right from the beginning.”
Boeheim’s reference to McNamara is in regards to a 2006 poll of Big East assistant coaches, who voted McNamara, a senior at the time, as the most overrated player. That sparked this rant (begins at 1:01 mark):
“Without Gerry McNamara, we wouldn’t have won 10 f***ing games this year, ” Boeheim said at the time. “OK? Not 10. The other guys just aren’t ready. They needed him. Without him there, not 10.”
Of course, McNamara responded to that poll leading the Orange on a memorable charge through the Big East Tournament. However, Christmas won’t get the opportunity this March, but after his senior campaign he will get an opportunity to play at the next level, slotted as a second-round pick by DraftExpress.com.