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NBA Draft: Teams wonder if Rakeem Christmas can match his dominant senior season

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on June 25, 2015 at 4:40 am Contact Chris: [email protected] | @ChrisLibonati Kevin Givens could see the differences last season. Rakeem Christmas’ high school coach said the forward looked bigger in the shoulders, his mental demeanor changed and, as a result, he dominated in the post.The improvements earned Christmas several accolades — he was an All-American, first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, ACC co-defensive player of the year and earned the ACC’s most improved player award — but couldn’t earn him a first-round peg in mock drafts.While his 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior established his post presence, it took two efficient performances in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the NBA Draft Combine to initially land at No. 39 in ESPN analyst Chad Ford’s mock draft in May.Heading into Thursday’s draft at Barclays Center, the combine results solidified Christmas as a draftee when he once may not have been. His wingspan was measured at more than 7 feet 5 inches, and he’ll be banking on general managers valuing his combine performance heavily rather than the first three years of his Syracuse career, when he averaged just 4.5 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game.“I think he performed at a really high level at the combine and opened a lot of eyes even further than opened during the season,” Jay Bilas said. “So I like him a lot and I think he’s a valuable pick in the early second round.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDuring Christmas’ combine performance, he flashed a mid-range jump shot and in two scrimmages, averaged 19.5 points and six rebounds per game. Before the draft, Givens took calls from Washington, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Boston, all teams with second-round picks or late first-round picks.While Christmas is a skilled big man that can play on the block, teams still have to weigh how long it will take him to adjust at the NBA level. Taking four years to adjust in the NBA, like he did at SU, could cost him a roster spot.Of the players taken in the first half of the second round in the last two years — that’s where analysts expect him to land — just 10 out of 30 have played half of an NBA season. Only seven of such picks from the 2012 class played half of the 2014-15 season, which would have been their third season in the league.Teams will have to believe Christmas’ sudden improvements in post play and his mid-range game will translate, and that he can play man-to-man defense. His former in-conference competition has bought in.Former Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant said Christmas’ “feel for the game is really good,” and thinks he can contribute to a team while former Duke forward Jahlil Okafor called him one of the best ACC players last season.Unlike Bilas and the two of the best players in the ACC, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express does not necessarily think teams are sold on Christmas’ one-year improvement.“The fact that he’s going in the second round tells you they aren’t buying into it too much,” Givony said.And teams seem to still be trying to figure out why it took Christmas so long to improve. Givens said general managers asked him what the difference between Christmas as a freshman at Syracuse and now is. Givens said he replied, “‘Man, you’d have to be a psychologist to answer that one.’”While the combine displayed parts of Christmas’ game he hadn’t shown before, it also gave him a chance to show off one thing he can’t change: his wingspan. The combination of his productivity and size that fits into the stretch-four or center positions in the end is what might give him a shot in the NBA.“Any time you have a guy that is 6’10” with that kind of wingspan and that productivity,” Givony said, “I think that you’ve got to take a serious look at him.”Sports Editor Sam Blum and Asst. Sports Editor Matt Schneidman contributed reporting to this story. Commentslast_img read more

Syracuse volleyball loses in straights sets to No. 15 Florida State

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 30, 2016 at 11:54 pm Contact Jake: [email protected] Syracuse (2-11, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) started out its first conference road trip with a loss, dropping straight sets to No. 15 Florida State (10-2, 3-0).Anastasiya Gorelina and Kendra Lukacs led the team with 11 kills a piece and Gorelina had a kill percentage of 42.1 percent.Syracuse had only four service errors, a much-needed improvement from the 10 it had against North Carolina State last Sunday.The first set was characterized by large runs by FSU. With Syracuse trailing 5-3, the Seminoles went on a 7-3 run to put them up 12-7. They didn’t lose the lead and went on an 8-4 run to end the set, 25-17.The second set was very much the same, with Syracuse allowing Florida State to go on an extended run with little time to recover. With the Seminoles up 18-16 on the Orange, Florida State went on a 7-0 run to end it.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith Syracuse trailing 18-16 in the third set, the Seminoles went on another 7-0 to close out the match.Syracuse will look for its second conference win when it returns to action Sunday against Miami (7-8, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) at noon. Commentslast_img read more