MBB : Christmas finding comfort zone as Syracuse’s anchor in paint

first_imgBOSTON – The maturation process for Rakeem Christmas began in late January. Thrust into the spotlight as Fab Melo was declared ineligible the day of Syracuse’s game at Notre Dame, the freshman immediately had more responsibility.That afternoon, he was dominated by Jack Cooley, who led the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Fighting Irish handed the Orange its first loss of the season. Christmas started at center, but played an uninspiring 13 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds.‘I think the thing that you have to have freshmen do, which we’ve been working on, is figure out how you can be successful for this team to win,’ Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins said on Wednesday.Christmas flourished two days after the Notre Dame loss, on Jan. 23, when he had another chance to be the man in the middle of the 2-3 zone. His four-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance in a win over Cincinnati prevented SU from dropping two in a row after a 20-0 start.Fast forward to March 14. Melo’s ineligible again. This time, Christmas has been up for the challenge from the get-go, averaging seven points, nine rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in the NCAA Tournament. The freshman has started 33 of 35 games this season for No. 1 Syracuse (33-2), but played just a couple of token minutes at the start of most Big East games before taking a seat on the bench. Against Kansas State in the third round Saturday, Christmas put up huge numbers for a freshman on such a big stage. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHis eight points, 11 rebounds – four offensive – and three blocks displayed a confidence that had not always been visible. An encore performance would be huge for Syracuse in its matchup with No. 4 Wisconsin (26-9) in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at the TD Garden. The Badgers have gotten double-digit offensive rebounds in four straight games.Christmas’ ability to rebound at the center position helped Syracuse remedy some of its rebounding deficiencies in the win over the Wildcats. Those 11 rebounds are more than Melo, who Christmas is replacing, grabbed in any game this season.‘He’s got a natural knack to be a great rebounder,’ Hopkins said. ‘I think the thing where we’re better is he’s a better defensive rebounder than we’ve had. Ricky Jackson was pretty darn good, but he’s as good a center (as) a rebounder as we’ve had.’In the Syracuse 2-3 zone, Hopkins said the center is usually out of position to rebound when a shot comes off the rim. That makes Christmas’ performance even more astonishing from last weekend.Hopkins works the Orange big men. Getting Christmas ready to play important minutes at the center position – after playing most of the season at power forward – was a difficult task.But Christmas’ offensive game has improved with the increased playing time as well. He is running up and setting screens for the Orange guards. He’s finding himself in pockets inside where he’s at a good angle to receive a pass.Against Kansas State, he scored three buckets in the second half off assists from guards. Showing what he can do has given his teammates more confidence in passing him the ball.Having Christmas in the middle allows for him to be on the court with C.J. Fair, Syracuse’s second-leading rebounder behind Melo. Not only does that frontcourt rebound well, but Scoop Jardine said the Orange becomes one of the most athletic teams in the country with both Fair and Christmas running the floor.‘We’re a faster team, and we’re able to do more on both ends with both of those guys on the court,’ he said.Wisconsin features three players who average more than five rebounds per game. The Badgers are 17-2 when they outrebound their opponent, compared to 9-7 when they don’t, so SU’s success on both the offensive and defensive glass is critical.With high praise comes heightened expectations for Christmas. The freshman said he’s been getting support from his teammates to continue the string of strong performances.‘Basically, they told me to keep doing the same thing,’ Christmas said. ‘Scoop, Kris (Joseph), telling me to keep getting rebounds, get putbacks and set screens for them. Help the team win.’mcooperj@syr.edu Published on March 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: mcooperj@syr.edu | @mark_cooperjr Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Thursday May 21st Local Sports

first_imgIOWA CITY — Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery says the Hawkeyes are a self motivated team and that will help them make progress even while the campus is closed. If Luka Garza removes his name from the NBA Draft the Hawkeyes will return nearly the entire roster from last year’s club that finished 20-11.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Fmexp – 1McCaffery says it is a team that is driven to improve.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Fmexp – 2McCaffery says they are trying to keep a normal routine, even though they are working from home.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Fmexp – 3 JOHNSTON — Iowa governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday gave the green light for high school baseball and softball to start on June 1st. Both seasons were in doubt due to the Covid-19 pandemic.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Summer – 1(as said)”Effective June first, Iowa schools will be permitted to resume school-sponsored activities and learning. According to the appropriate public health precautions — this will include high school baseball and softball activities,” Reynolds says. Reynolds says parents and athletes have been anxious to get playing again.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Summer – 2(as said)”High school athletics was the logical place to start the process of bringing athletics back in season. We are working closely with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and others to make this possible,” she says. She says they are also looking to get other sports back too.KGLO News · 5 – 21 – Summer – 3The Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Board of Directors met on Wednesday afternoon and both groups voted to approve resuming the 2020 summer seasons under the guidelines set out by the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Public Health. Practices for teams can start on June 1st, with the first contests to be held as early as June 15th. Fans will be permitted to attend the games. IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa women’s volleyball program was placed on probation for one year and must vacate 33 wins over two seasons as part of its penalties for violations committed by former coach Bond Shymansky.The university’s athletic department also will pay a $5,000 fine to the NCAA under terms of the negotiated resolution announced Wednesday.Shymansky, who was fired in June 2019, admitted making two cash payments totaling $2,000 to a prospective player during the summer of 2017.The player transferred to Iowa after her sophomore year and arrived on campus in May 2017. She could not receive a scholarship immediately because she was academically ineligible.She obtained a loan to pay for summer classes and asked the volleyball staff about getting a part-time job to assist with her living expenses.Shymansky, according to the negotiated resolution, encouraged the player to focus on getting eligible by the fall instead of finding a job. Shymansky later went to the player’s apartment and handed her an envelope containing $1,500. On another occasion, the coach gave her an envelope containing $500.Shymansky told investigators he intended the money to be an advance for wages the player would earn working at his volleyball camp later that summer. However, all parties agreed the player was also paid for working the camp and the advance was not paid back.In addition to vacating 33 wins in which the player appeared in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Iowa will reduce its number of recruiting evaluation days in volleyball by 3.75%.center_img MASON CITY — NIACC women’s basketball player Autam Mendez has been named the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference’s female athlete of the year. Mendez, who was selected as the conference women’s basketball player of the week three times in 2019-20, helped guide the Lady Trojans to the top of the national rankings in February and the conference regular season and Region XI Tournament titles. She was the conference’s women’s basketball player of the year and was an all-Region XI Tournament selection. Mendez was also a first-team NJCAA Division II all-American and was selected as the NJCAA Division II national player of the year – a first for a NIACC women’s basketball player. Mendez, who will play next season at San Jose State University, averaged 16.9 points per game. She ranks third on the school’s career scoring list, third on the school’s career three-point field goal list, and third on the school’s career rebounding list.last_img read more