A Christmas Story

When eighth-ranked Tennessee came to the Liacouras Center in December 2008, it got an up-close view of Temple senior Dionte Christmas. "They got a real show of what an NBA 2 guard can do when he gets going," said then-Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl may have been suitably impressed with Christmas, but so far his vision of the next step in the Owl guard's development hasn't come true.

When eighth-ranked Tennessee came to the Liacouras Center in December 2008, it got an up-close view of what Temple senior Dionte Christmas was capable of on a basketball court.

"They got a real show of what an NBA 2 guard can do when he gets going," said then-Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl.

Pearl may have been suitably impressed with Christmas, who knocked down seven three-pointers on the way to 35 points that day, but so far his vision of the next step in the Owl guard's development hasn't come true.

Two years later, Christmas is still waiting to make that first NBA regular-season roster, and with the NBA owners locking out the players and the 2011-2012 season in jeopardy, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard with over 2,000 collegiate points might be waiting a little while longer.

Christmas has played in Israel, Turkey and Greece the last two years and expects to sign a contract with a team in Spain, Greece or Turkey sometime in the next three weeks. While he still hopes for that NBA contract, Christmas says it has been interesting to experience different countries and cultures.

"I've seen a lot," said Christmas. "It's been great. Through the course of me trying to get back to the NBA, I've met a lot of important people, a lot of good guys in the NBA. My journey since my professional career started has been good."

Christmas noted Israel has been his favorite location because it is the most Americanized, while Greece's passionate fans gave him some cause for concern.

"They're all a lot different, different coaches, food, language, girls. … a lot different," said Christmas. "Israel, Turkey were both good, laid back, a lot of fans. Greece takes it very, very seriously. You lose games, they start throwing bombs, flares, cups of coffee on the court. It was just rowdy, and it shook me up in the beginning, but I got used to it.

"I want to win anywhere, but Greece it got crazy. That was my motivation to win."

While Christmas is prepared to enjoy more of the world, he is planning to use the time to work on coming back home. He expects to stress attacking the basket more, which is a skill he'll need to improve on so he isn't labeled just a jump shooter by NBA teams.

Christmas worked out for the Phoenix Suns in June and received good feedback, but the lockout came a day later, cutting off any future communication until the league can resolve its issues.

"I have a pro shot, but little things like strength and getting to the basket I need to work on and I can do that overseas," said Christmas.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy feels Christmas has the tools to play in the NBA and just needs an opportunity.

"He has a dream and I hope the dream never dies of getting into the NBA," said Dunphy. "He has an NBA game, he has the ability to make shots at the NBA level. Can he get there? I hope he can. If it hasn't happened yet, who cares if it happens year four, five or six, it will be a phenomenal story.

"He has a lot of basketball left to play, he can do this. Somebody will give him a chance at some point, and when they do they will be rewarded with a guy who works hard and will make a lot of shots."

Christmas was signed by the Philadelphia 76ers out of college and thought he had a good chance to make the team before being cut loose. He also spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers that summer before starting his professional career in Israel – though never letting go of the ultimate goal.

"The day the Sixers released me, coach Eddie Jordan told me two or three years ago no question I'd be on team," recalled Christmas. "But money and roster spots didn't work out in my favor.

"People around me kept pushing and that's my dream, I'm not going to give up."

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