Grading the Syracuse Orange: Rakeem Christmas

Let's hope we see a lot more of these next season.

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician is putting a bow on the 2011-12 Syracuse Orange basketball season by recapping how each scholarship player performed, and looking forward to what lies ahead in 2012-13. In honor of their status as student-athletes (insert Fab Melo joke here) we will score each player’s performance on an A-F scale, and offer some suggestions on what they can work on in the offseason (a.k.a. "summer school").

Rakeem Christmas

Height: 6’9"
Year: Freshman
Position: Forward/Center
Number: 25
MPG: 11.5
PPG: 2.5
RPG: 2.6
BPG: 0.8

Passing Grades:

Coming out of high school, Rakeem was considered a superb athlete with natural instincts for running the floor, rebounding, and blocking shots – essentially a slightly less spectacular version of what is expected from current high school blue chipper Nerlens Noel. That’s why I think Noel’s commitment to Kentucky may not be that big of a loss for the Orange. Christmas showed flashes of potential when he was given the opportunity, usually in the absence of Fab Melo. It seemed to me that as his playing time rose and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder, his confidence rose – and that translated into better overall play. Rakeem thrived when playing center in the NCAA Tournament alongside athletic forwards like Kris Joseph, C.J. Fair, and James Southerland, where he could concentrate on doing what he does best and not having to worry about chasing smaller players out to the three point line.

Rakeem Christmas awesome one-handed alley-oop And 1 (via ESPN)

Needs Work:

Rakeem had a textbook definition of a inconsistent season. He started every regular season game, but logged less than ten minutes of court time in 14 of them and lost his starting spot to C.J. Fair in the Big East Tournament. It was only because of Melo’s second suspension that he regained that starting role. Down the stretch of the regular season and the BET he registered nine consecutive games of eight minutes played or less, a testament to his lack of production and Jim Boeheim’s lack of confidence in him. At times he looked lost on the court, especially on defense, and only appeared to finally become comfortable when he switched to center for the NCAAs.

Summer School:

Like fellow big man Baye Keita, Rakeem needs to bulk up this summer, adding more muscle for the rigors of a second Big East season. The physical pounding he took against thicker players like Jared Sullinger, Yancey Gates, and Jack Cooley demonstrated exactly what he has to work on in the coming months. He also needs broaden his offensive skillset beyond dunks and layups, specifically acquiring a go-to move in the post (a reliable jump hook perhaps?) and a respectable face up jumper to about 15 feet. With stud recruit DaJuan Coleman joining the team next year, one of them will need to be able to operate away from the goal on occasion or else they’ll end up getting in each others' way.

Final Grade: B- (Gets extra credit for wearing # 25. It’s nice to know he has a sense of humor.)

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.

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