Christmas brushes aside postseason ban talk on, off court

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 7, 2015 at 8:25 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse PITTSBURGH — Rakeem Christmas sat slumped inside a locker, a white hoodie pulled tightly over his head and his college career one day closer to its end date of March 7.Christmas, the only scholarship senior on a team that announced a self-imposed postseason ban Wednesday, said he isn’t thinking about the wall his final season is inevitably going to hit. Instead he said he’s just playing his game, evidenced by the 23 points and 12 rebounds he tallied in Syracuse’s (15-8, 6-4 Atlantic Coast) 83-77 loss to Pittsburgh (16-8, 5-5) at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday.Still, Christmas’ teammates feel for the player most directly affected by Syracuse’s decision to close its season at North Carolina State instead of in the NCAA Tournament, National Invitational Tournament or even the College Basketball Invitational.“I felt bad, I felt bad for him. But at the same time I know he is a strong person and I know he’ll be fine,” SU junior forward Michael Gbinije said. “He’ll definitely continue to play basketball past Syracuse.“You know, it stinks, but he’s been to a Final Four, not a lot of players can say that, I feel bad for him but at the same time it’s life. It happens and I think he’ll move on and be fine.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn SU’s first game after announcing the ban, Christmas and Gbinije led the game in scoring and Christmas was his usual dominant self. He was the only player in the game to play all 40 minutes, while shooting 9-of-13 from the floor, 5-of-8 from the free-throw line and blocking six shots on the other end, but it wasn’t enough to will the Orange to back-to-back conference wins.The loss was a microcosm of Syracuse’s season — Christmas shouldering a sizable offensive load, anchoring SU’s zone defense and not getting the support needed to turn his effort into a win.But this loss is different given where it falls. This year’s team is not thought to be involved in the NCAA investigation that led to the self-imposed ban, but it’s the one paying for it. And its starting center is paying a bulk of the tab.“Rakeem is a tough kid,” SU junior guard Trevor Cooney said. “He knows like all of us that you can only control what you can control.”Christmas insisted that he’s approaching the end of the season with the same, measured demeanor he’s had all year.Said Christmas: “I don’t think about it. I just go out there and play every game like it’s my last and in the end I’ll be fine.” Commentslast_img

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