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

Barcelona charged with tax fraud over Neymar signing

first_imgBarcelona have been charged with tax fraud by a Spanish court over the signing of striker Neymar.On Thursday, Judge Pablo Ruz charged the club with “an infringement against the tax authority” over the signing of the Brazilian international, who joined from Santos in June 2013.Barca denied any wrongdoing over the transfer in a statement released on Wednesday, a day after Spain’s public prosecutor had asked Judge Ruz to lay fraud charges against the club.”The club’s dealings with respect to this operation, and in light of all information available, was at all times in line with the relevant legal legislation,” read the statement, which also revealed that the club would be sending legal representatives to court “within the next few days in order to defend its interests and rights.”Ruz is also investigating former Barca president Sandro Rosell, who stepped down from his role after it was revealed that 40m euros from the deal to take Neymar to the Nou Camp had been paid to a firm operated by the player’s father, who has been called to testify at the court.In January, Barca member Jordi Cases alleged that the amount the club paid for Neymar was greater than the 57.1m euros stated at the time and that Rosell had misappropriated funds. The club subsequently revealed that the amount paid for Neymar was 86.2m euros following the revoking of a confidentiality agreement with the player’s father.Barca director Raul Sanllehi stated the transfer on its own had cost 57.1m euros including 17.1m to Santos and 40m as a “compensation fee” paid to the company owned by Neymar’s parents.However, he also detailed other payments around the transfer such as a signing bonus of 10m euros and various other fees paid to the family that took the total cost to 86.2m.last_img read more

Šetkić in Quarterfinals of ITF Tournament in Greece

first_imgB&H tennis player Aldin Šetkić has qualified for the quarterfinals of the ITF Futures tournament in Heraklion, Greece, which is being played for 10.000 dollars.Šetkić beat Dominik Suc from the Czech Republic with 6:2, 6:2 in the second round. The 26 year old from Sarajevo will play against Yannik Reuter from Belgium in the quarterfinals.(Source: Fena)last_img