Just two days after the Harlem Globetrotters ceremonial “drafting” of Springside Chestnut Hill rising 9th grader Mo’ne Davis, the NBA draft is upon us. Many Philadelphians have their eyes on the 76ers and their six draft picks, including the much-anticipated third overall choice. General Manager Sam Hinkie’s much-discussed “tanking” plan is meant to pay its dividends tonight, when an influx of new talent will be coming to the City of Brotherly Love. But first, a look at the local talent potentially leaving the region to find homes with NBA teams elsewhere.
The local name in this draft perhaps most familiar to Chestnut Hillers is Rakeem Christmas, formerly of Syracuse University and Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn. Raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he moved to live with his aunt in Southwest Philadelphia after the tragic death of his mother. The center blossomed after his sophomore year of high school into a national-caliber player and spent his junior and senior seasons at ANC, a league foe of Germantown Friends.
Ranked as one of the best 25 players in his graduating class, he followed in the footsteps of other Philadelphia stars and took his talents to Syracuse, where he excelled for four years under Jim Boeheim and received third team all-American honors his senior season. He may be, perhaps, the first ever Syracuse basketball player to receive his degree in only three years.
Though he stands a formidable 6’9’’ and 250 pounds, Christmas, known as “Rak” by some, is considered undersized for the position he plays, and this means he will likely fall to the second round of the draft. Possible landing locations could include Houston with the 32nd pick, Minnesota with the 36th pick, or Detroit with the 38th pick. The hometown team does have picks at 35 and 37, but it seems unlikely that they will spring for Christmas.
Growing up just seven miles south of Chestnut Hill is D.J. Newbill out of Strawberry Mansion High School. After an illustrious career at Strawberry Mansion, where he is famous for once scoring 64 points in one game, he planned to attend the University of Southern Mississippi. However, the death of his mother during his freshman year there, he decided to return closer to home and play the rest of his collegiate career in Happy Valley at Penn State.
Though never becoming as big a name as some in the conference, he quietly led the Big Ten in scoring during his senior season and played his name into draft discussions. He has worked out for 13 teams in the past month, including the Sixers, and though it is unclear whether he will sneak into the second round or not, Newbill should have a chance to make an NBA roster next year.
The biggest area name in the draft, though, is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The area’s only bona fide first round prospect, Hollis-Jefferson grew up in Chester and attended Chester High School before the University of Arizona. A major high school prospect touted for his freakish athleticism, the small forward spent two successful years at Arizona before declaring for the NBA draft.
Compared to the other two previously mentioned, his statistics are perhaps less impressive, but his body and athleticism project for a solid NBA career. Projected to be a mid-to-late first rounder, look for Hollis-Jefferson to be drafted at 20th to Toronto, 23rd to Portland, or 26th to San Antonio. He would possibly be an excellent fit for the 76ers, but it is unlikely he will fall all the way to their pick at 35.
Other area guys will certainly get signed as free agents after the draft, and some, such as Abington Friends’ Jabril Trawick, may have a slim chance to get drafted. But look for Newbill, Hollis-Jefferson, and Christmas to hear their name at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 25th as Philadelphia products heading out into the National Basketball Association.