Pacers rookie Rakeem Christmas is a 6-foot-9 forward out of Syracuse who was selected in the second round of the 2015 draft (No. 36 overall) by the Timberwolves. He was traded to the Cavaliers on draft night, then from the Cavs to Pacers in July.
Christmas played all four years in college and averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds his senior season. Here is how he answered three questions from Amico Hoops.
Q: You were drafted by Cleveland and spent about two weeks as a Cavalier. During that time, did you contemplate what it might be like to play with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love?
Christmas: I considered it when I first got drafted but I was only there for two weeks. I was home when I found out I was being traded. It’s a business. Being here is a great opportunity. I’m happy to be here, it’s a blessing. With the Cavs, there’s a lot going on there. I was happy when I found out I was being traded here. (C.J.) Miles and I have the same agent, so I know him. I know Joe (Young) a little bit. C.J. Fair was my roommate in college. Paul, C.J., all of them have accepted me.
Q: You grew up in St. Croix and didn’t make your way to the States until you were in eighth grade. How has that unique path shaped you as a basketball player?
Christmas: It definitely drives me. Growing up as a kid, there were a lot of billboards of Tim Duncan on the island, that’s where he’s from. You watch him growing up, that’s something I tried to model myself after. When I moved to the States, I had no idea I would be in the situation I’m in now. It was a long process, but it was great.
Q: You graduated in three years from Syracuse. What motivated you to focus on your education, above and beyond what even the typical college student achieves?
Christmas: I got my passion for education from my aunt. She raised me in Philly. When I moved, in she had just graduated from college. She told me school came before sports. If I did something wrong in school, there was disciplinary action. I carried it over into college.
Jeff Kasler covers the Pacers for Amico Hoops.