Syracuse walk-on Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye bodies up with Rakeem Christmas in practice, builds on multi-talent background

first_img Published on March 3, 2015 at 2:17 am Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse At the beginning of the season, Rakeem Christmas would back down Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye, rise up and effortlessly lay in two at the rim.But as the year wore on and opponents started keying on Christmas, more and more every game, Akintobi-Adeyeye did the same in practice.He started fouling the senior forward. Slaps on the arm. Bumps with his body. If Christmas made the shot, the contact came harder on the next play. Then harder until the center finally missed a jump hook, stared at Akintobi-Adeyeye out of the corner of his eye and readied for another rep.“When I first started guarding him in practice he wouldn’t even look at me after he scored,” said Akintobi-Adeyeye, who walked onto SU prior to the season. “But the coaches wanted me to challenge him and now he’ll look back and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s how it is?’“And I just look at him like, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor Akintobi-Adeyeye, much of this year has been a blur. After picking up a basketball for the first time as a sophomore in high school, the sophomore could have never imagined that he’d be training with Christmas, traveling to places like Duke and North Carolina and dancing in the middle of the Orange’s huddle before every game.But that’s exactly what he’s done, and none of his roles have been more important than helping Christmas – who was honored on senior day before Syracuse (18-12, 9-8 Atlantic Coast) fell to No. 2 Virginia (28-1, 16-1), 59-47, on Monday night – grow into one of the country’s best low-post scorers.“He’s helped me a lot. I mean he’s a very strong, physical player,” Christmas said after the loss to Virginia. “He’s banging down there a lot with DaJuan (Coleman) not always there, so I mean it’s a great relationship I have with Doyin.”Before joining the Uniondale (New York) High School basketball team, Akintobi-Adeyeye had a lot of other hobbies.He was a swimmer that used his sinewy 6-foot-6 frame and long arms to thrive in backstroke. He studied hard with hopes of attending medical school in the future. And he competed with the school’s show choir – known as Rhythm of the Knight – singing and dancing to Michael Jackson and acting as the group’s co-president.Akintobi-Adeyeye is on the pre-med track with hopes of being an orthopedic surgeon and still performs, energizing his teammates with pregame moves as the unquestioned “best dancer on the team.”But the swimming has been fully replaced.“If you would have told me then that I’d play Syracuse basketball, I would have said you were insane,” Akintobi-Adeyeye said. “I would have said, ‘I’m going to the Olympics, 500-meter backstroke.’ Maybe not that, but definitely not basketball.”When he did take up the sport, Akintobi-Adeyeye said he stumbled more than he stood upright. But he soon loved it and found a new home in Archbold Gymnasium when he arrived at SU.That’s where he worked almost every day, shooting jump shots, faking out invisible defenders in the post and getting in shape while playing on the Syracuse club team. He couldn’t try out for the Orange as a freshman because his medical insurance expired but hung around the Carmelo K. Anthony Center in the summer leading into this year.That ultimately earned him a tryout, and Akintobi-Adeyeye impressed enough to make the team. And with DaJuan Coleman and Chris McCullough both out for the season – Coleman from the start and McCullough since Jan. 12 – the walk-on has been an essential part of Syracuse’s everyday function.“Doyin’s been just a blessing. He’s such a hard worker and he brings 110 percent and he gives Rakeem a different dynamic,” SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “… No one really does well on Rak, but Doyin wants to help and knows how he can help.”Hopkins said that while Coleman resembled Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and SU backup Chinonso Obokoh is a shot-blocker like former Orange center Baye Moussa-Keita, Akintobi-Adeyeye shows Christmas how strong, undersized forwards will play him.Having that perspective has helped Christmas carry the Orange with 17.6 points per game this season and Akintobi-Adeyeye make noticeable improvements. He’s often the first SU player to take the court on game days to do dribbling drills and take free throws with team managers, and Hopkins joked that “Doyin may be the most improved player and then Rakeem.”And while Akintobi-Adeyeye says he’d love to parlay his time against Christmas into future playing time, he also takes pride in his role.When SU head coach Jim Boeheim subbed out Christmas with one minute left on Monday night, Akintobi-Adeyeye was the last player on the Syracuse bench to congratulate the senior on his last home game. Christmas lightly touched each of his teammates’ hands before passing up Akintobi-Adeyeye’s high-five.Instead, Christmas grabbed Akintobi-Adeyeye’s head with his right hand and tapped it against his own chest before looking at the walk-on.This time, straight in the eyes.“It’s sad that Rakeem is leaving after this year. We’ve gotten really close just working together all the time,” Akintobi-Adeyeye said.“… I bet they’ll find someone else for me to guard.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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