It's no secret that the former McDonald's All-American known as Rakeem Christmas isn't exactly setting the world on fire during his freshman campaign. Jared Sullenger, he isn't. In fact, the only reason words like "bust" and "disappointment" aren't being applied because he came in lacking the requisite hype, a la Fab Melo. Like freshman Fab, Rakeem continues to start games only to see very limited action in most games. They say that bigs take longer to develop and history has proven that axiom out, as do Rak's numbers: 12.4 MPG, 3.4 PPG 2.3 RPG, 0.7 BPG. I can only imagine how frustrated he is.
What I find encouraging is that, despite his struggles, Rak continues to come to play. I think that after the DeShonte Riley debacle, Jim B is making a concerted effort to get his young bigs more minutes. It doesn't do for the anchor of your D to have the "deer in the headlights" look when forced into action by foul trouble, injuries, whatever. And, even though his production is lacking, I think Rakeem has responded well. Unlike Riley a couple seasons ago, I've yet to see Rakeem intimidated by anyone. He's still getting used to no longer being the biggest guy on the court and getting used to the speed of the college game, but I've yet to see him back down from anyone. Several times this season I've seen, on both ends, him battling for post position and the opposing player ends up on the floor. This is a good thing. The worst thing that can happen for a young big is be scared to mix it up in the paint. That was Riley's problem. Rak's game will come around to where his work for position ends up in dunks and monster blocks. Once that happens, Syracuse's front line will be that much more formidable and likely unrivaled in the college game.