My last few months of basketball were extremely fast-paced
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Editor's Note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories that will be written by St. Croix native Rakeem Christmas, a 17-year-old basketball player who is considered to be the nation's No. 2 high school center and No. 19 overall recruit in the ESPNU 100. He will play basketball next year at Syracuse University.
When my aunt approached me about possibly doing a monthly column for The Virgin Islands Daily News, I was a little skeptical. But after I thought about it, I figured this would be a great way for me to keep in contact with everyone from home and to let you know what's going in my world up here.
In my first column, I wanted to give an overview of what my life has been like the last few months.
My summer leading in to the school year was quite fun. In the beginning of the summer, I basically lived in the gym. Every day I would lift and work out with my trainer to get ready for the AAU season.
This was my last AAU season with Team Final. We traveled a lot. Some of the cities our team played at included New York City, Orlando and Los Angeles. Team Final is one of Nike's elite teams. This was the first year we played in the EYBL (Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League). Essentially, it's ran like the NBA, but on a high school level.
We had conferences and got seeded in brackets to qualify for Peach Jam, which is the championship tournament for the summer. My team and I did pretty good, but I can't believe we lost in the semifinals.
Aside from traveling with Team Final, I participated in several events individually. I played in the skills camp for NBA players Amaré Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns and LeBron James of the Miami Heat. I also did a lot with Adidas Nations, playing with the 2011 USA Team in Las Vegas and Portland.
My summer highlight was when I got to play against Lebron in Ohio and some of the Cavaliers players. It was pretty cool to guard him. I actually blocked his shot once! He came back and played much harder though.
My last two events for the summer was the Nike Global Challenge at their campus in Oregon and I also headed back to L.A. to play in the Elite 24 game. In between those trips, I visited Syracuse University, which solidified my feeling that it was the best school for me. We did a press conference at Nike's campus to make my decision to play with the Orange. Since then, life has been a little less stressful now that I know where I will be attending school.
My focus now is having the best record at my high school, Academy of the New Church (ANC) in Pennsylvania. We have a very tough schedule. As I'm writing this I am heading to Peoria, IL, where we will be playing in the State Farm Tournament.
November was a big month for me. I was on the cover of ESPN RISE magazine and in SLAM magazine. I signed my letter of intent to attend Syracuse as well. We celebrated at IHOP with my family.
Although a lot of people make it seem like a big deal, I try to not be fazed by all the notoriety that has come my way. I'm still the same ol' Rakeem from the islands. Nothing has changed. Remember that in all you think, you can achieve.
Summer seems like so long ago, but it really was just a few weeks ago. The season is about to start and my birthday is also around the corner. I'm looking forward to interacting with everyone via this column and inviting you into my world.
- Contact Rakeem Christmas by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him via Twitter at twitter@rakeemchristmas.