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Rakeem Christmas of St. Croix Graduates From College In 3 Years

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           Rakeem Christmas of St. Croix

SYRACUSE — The Indiana Pacers acquired the rights to Rakeem Christmas, the 36th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers last month. The Indiana Pacers traded their recently acquired future second-round pick received from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the Roy Hibbert transaction.

Christmas played all four years at Syracuse University, making a trip to the NCAA Final Four in 2013. The 23-year old is an athletic big at 6’9”, 250 lbs. with a 7’5” wingspan. Syracuse assistant coach, Mike Hopkins, not only praises Christmas for the athlete he is, but described him as “a guy who comes to work every day wanting to learn…wanting to get better.” Rakeem worked hard in the gym, yet he made sure it would not interfere with his studies.

In just three years, Christmas acquired enough credits to earn his degree in Communications and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, a feat no other Syracuse basketball player had accomplished in school history.

“It’s got to be about as rare as can be, it’s an unbelievable accomplishment, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said.

Boeheim also made it known that his players usually take summer courses in order to “catch-up from the lighter schedule taken during the school year, i.e. during basketball season.

Christmas, however, went a different route. He decided to take the same amount of credits each semester, as the other 15,000 undergraduate students attending the university.

I love school,” Christmas said. “The teachers are just great people. When you go to those classes, it’s fun to sit in there and just learn from them.”

Christmas was named a second team All-American by USA Today while also entering graduate school, prior to his senior year where he would pursue a master’s degree in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation.

It would be impressive for any college student to earn their undergraduate degree in just three years. For a Division-I athlete and All-American who was sure to turn professional, this accomplishment is quite remarkable. When including time spent on the court, in the weight room, film sessions and traveling, Christmas had significantly less time to attend to his education.

“The travel is the toughest on you. We’re gone a lot, but you’ve just got to keep in contact with your teacher, emailing them and sending in assignments,” Christmas said.

With a good head on his shoulders and his education as his number one priority, Christmas made sure to always complete his course work, even if that meant studying in the hotel room on the road.

Christmas said he doesn’t believe that he’s incredibly intelligent, he simply believes that he’s a hard worker.

“Anyone can finish in three years,” he said. “You don’t have to be smart. You just have to do the work. It’s the work ethic. Some people come here and just want to party and stuff like that. But you have to get your work done.”

Let’s hope that this new Indiana Pacer can use his broad intelligence on the hardwood. If his college career is any illustration, Christmas has a bright future in the NBA.

Christmas led Syracuse last season with 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, while also finishing his college career with 247 blocks.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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