Looking back to this time last year, a young big man from Philadelphia was starting to make waves as a potentially dominant big man. While he was a little rough around the edges at the time, it was pretty clear that Rakeem Christmas had all the tools to become one of the most highly rated players in the class of 2011 even if rankings were never something he cared about.
Moving back to the present, Christmas is more than making good on that promise as the 6-foot-9 center looks to have cemented himself as a top five prospect in his class. If there was any question as to how good he was, he's more than proven himself with a string of outstanding performances at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Nike Skills Academies and the Peach Jam.
"I thought it was going to be a lot of hard competition," said Christmas of his difficult schedule. "There's a lot of work and stuff like that, but it's good."
A bruising and physical big man with impossibly long arms, Christmas made his reputation early as a dominant shot blocker and rebounder. While he remains a premier glass cleaner, he's significantly upgraded an offensive repertoire that used to consist of dunks, dunks, dunks and more dunks.
"I've been working hard on it," said Christmas of his offense. "Shooting, and going to the hole. Stuff like that I've really improved with."
A quiet and easy going kid, Christmas warns that opponents shouldn't take his easy going attitude as a sign that he's one to play with.
"Yeah, I'm cool and calm," says Christmas of his demeanor. "But, I'm down for whatever out there."
Like most kids his age, the rising junior dreams of playing in the NBA. He's got a bunch of favorites, but it isn't surprising to see a guy that he's been compared to for his game and his physical similarities.
"I really like Dwight Howard, LeBron, Kobe," said Christmas. "Everyone says that I look like Dwight and play like him. I see it a little bit."
On the recruiting front, Christmas could call up almost any coach in the country and they'd be happy to take him even though he still has half of his high school career ahead of him. However, he says he hasn't looked into his recruitment at all and declines to discuss specific schools.
"I don't mess with that at all. I have my Aunt mess with all of that stuff. I just keep it cool," Christmas told Kentucky Sports Report. "Probably this time next year, I'll look at it. Whoever has the best interest in me and whatever team fits me the best. It doesn't really matter where it is, I'm just gonna go and ball."
With just a few more events left in the summer before he returns to Northeast Catholic for his junior season, Christmas isn't worried about people's opinions. Though he's made good on much of the promise he exhibited a year ago while shooting up the rankings, he still takes it in stride and isn't the least bit worried about other's opinions of him or where he's ranked. "It's just whatever some people feel," said Christmas. "I mean some people take it real seriously, but I'm like whatever. I don't really care."