Rakeem Christmas is first player in SU basketball history to finish degree in 3 years

Published 05/08 2014 04:11PM

Updated 05/08 2014 11:00PM

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Thousands of students will pack into the Carrier Dome on Sunday to receive their degrees from Syracuse University, including dozens of athletes.

The 160th Commencement at SU will mark a first for the storied basketball program at the school, as starting forward Rakeem Christmas will have completed his degree in three years.

He has one year of eligibility left and plans to come back next school year to begin graduate work.

Video: Watch the full interview with Christmas

Christmas has been a star on the SU basketball team all three years he's been on campus.

“It’s just an honor to be able to do something like this and like you said, a lot of people think us athletes come here to play sports, we don't go to class, but it’s not true. We put in a lot of hard work and dedication in the classroom," Christmas said.

When he's not on the court, Christmas said he's focused on getting to class and turning in his work on time.

For away games he tries to do as much work as he can before the trip, but an adviser always finds time and space for him to study on the road. Graduating in three years isn’t something Christmas said he set out to do, but said when he found out he was close, he went for it.

"I lived with my aunt most of my life and she graduated from college in four years, so I wanted to one-up her, so that was one of my big things,” Christmas said. “They all were happy, my family, my dad and my aunt, they're proud of me. My grandma, she's back in the Virgin Islands and she texts me all the time saying how proud she is of me. I'm just happy to make my family happy."

Christmas said he has a few credits to finish up and he'll do that in the upcoming “Maymester.” He then plans to head home to Philadelphia, which is something he hasn't been able to do the past few summers as he stayed on campus, worked out, took courses and earned credits.

"It’s going to be a great feeling just getting down there for myself and being able to walk across the stage," Christmas said.

Christmas will graduate with a degree in Communications and Rhetorical Studies.


You can watch SU's Commencement live on Sunday beginning at 9:30 a.m. on the following channels in Central New York:
  • NewsChannel 9’s digital channel 9.2
  • Time Warner Cable - 1240
  • Verizon FiOS - 470
  • New Visions - 23

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