Rakeem Christmas played in his last home game on Monday to finish a strong career and remarkable senior season. Afterwards, several Syracuse players and coaches discussed what their senior leader has meant to them on and off the court.
Michael Gbinije: “To me personally, he’s my roommate. He’s one of the reasons I chose Syracuse because I knew him from high school. He’s a great guy. Definitely one of my favorite people I’ve ever met in my life. As a teammate, you can’t ask for more. He’s all about making sure everybody’s happy but at the same time, try to teach and instill work ethic and things like that. I’m just going to miss him. From his dance around our apartment to hearing his car and his music all the way outside so I know he’s coming home. Just small things like that. He’s a great guy like I said and I wish him the best of luck. I know he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do. It’s unfortunate he has to go out like this on his home court, but hopefully we can turn it back around with a win at NC State.”
Mike Hopkins: “A kid that when you talk about a student-athlete, talk about a kid that graduates in three years. A guy who started at the bottom and made it to the top of the college basketball field through hard work and through ups and downs. To be able to get to the level that he’s at, it’s just amazing. It’s everything you’d want in a student-athlete. He’s turned himself into an All-ACC type player and an NBA Draft pick as well, what we’re so proud of, he’s a great kid. You’re talking about a kid that makes people smile and makes people laugh. That’s a pretty cool thing. That’s a special person.”
B.J. Johnson: “He’s been big for us. Pretty much our most consistent player day in and day out. He’s been great for us. All of the little success that we had was because of him. He’s a great friend and teammate. When I came here, he was sort of like my big brother. With him gone next year, I’m going to have to find somebody else to hang out with. He’s a great friend and great basketball player. I wish him the best of luck.”
Trevor Cooney: “It’s well deserved for him. He’s had a great year and a great career. He’s led us on and off the court. It was well deserved to go out that way. We probably would’ve liked to have a better feeling and win the game. But he’s had a great year and a great career. I just told him ‘great job’ (when he came out of the game). He’s been fighting down there all year long. He’s played so many minutes and played so well. That doesn’t happen for big guys like that. He’s come a long way. I couldn’t say too much to him right there, but I just said ‘good job.’”
Tyler Roberson: “He was big for us this year. The things he did for us on the court, no other big man in the country could have done. Off the court, he meant a lot. He was the leader for us. I learned a lot from him on the court and off the court. He was a huge part of what we did. I learned a lot from him in practice every day.”
Kaleb Joseph: “He’s been the backbone of our team all year. He’s been a great leader and someone I can look up to. I’m going to miss playing with him but we’ll definitely make the best of the next opportunity. I’ll miss his personality. He’s one of the guys that always attracts people because he’s a fun and caring guy. He’s really funny and a natural born leader. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Jim Boeheim: “He’s had a great career. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s battled for 40 minutes just about every game just to give us a chance to win. We have no other inside presence of any kind. Rakeem has had to do an unbelievable amount of work. I think he has done an incredible job.”