Christmas: 23.6 min, 5.8 pts, 0.7 ast, 5.1 reb, 0.5 stl, 1.9 blk, 61.3 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 72.6 FT%
Coleman: 13.0 min, 4.3 pts, 0.2 ast, 4.2 reb, 0.3 stl, 0.5 blk, 58.3 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 50.0 FT%
What We Know
Rakeem Christmas better not get into foul trouble. That is the sentiment here with Coleman’s status in doubt. Christmas will play 35-plus minutes per game as long as he stays healthy and out of foul trouble and is the Orange’s best option on both ends of the floor.
Christmas has an improved offensive game. He can work out of the post, take his man one on one, or pass it to the open man if doubled. His athleticism and ability to run the floor is a perfect fit for Syracuse’s system. Now in his senior year, he will be the leader of the Orange.
Christmas’ ability to anchor the zone will be critical to their success. He now makes the calls on their rotations, and will help bring along some of the younger guys.
Behind him is redshirt freshman Chinonso Obokoh. Obokoh is battling a hip injury, which could impact his effectiveness early. Even if at full strength, Chino is a raw offensive talent who will have to make his hay on the defensive end of the floor. In high school, he was a natural shot blocker and solid rebounder. His ability to at least contribute something on the floor will be important when Rak is in foul trouble or needs a breather.
Will DaJuan Coleman play this season? His knees continue to plague the former five-star center prospect. After limiting him to just 13 games a year ago, Coleman’s status has been a mystery throughout the offseason and continues to be the year is set to tip-off.
Various reports suggest he is on schedule with his rehab, but there is still no timetable for a return. Rumblings suggest that a return is not expected, but that remains to be seen.
If Coleman is unable to go, it leaves Syracuse very thin at the center position. That is magnified even more given the lack of experience of Obokoh. His role becomes even more critical with Coleman out, and will have to work hard to gain the trust of the coaching staff.
With huge question marks surrounding Coleman and Obokoh, the production of Rakeem Christmas is critical to the success of the 2014-15 Syracuse Orange. Not only does he have to be a leader on the floor and in the locker room, but he has to stay out of foul trouble at all costs.
If Obokoh is forced to play extended minutes, or McCullough is forced to slide into the middle, it significantly hinders Syracuse’s defensive abilities. Rak has to be the rock for the Orange.