Three years ago, Dionte Christmas was your typical freshman spectator gawking wide-eyed at the coverage of the 2006 NBA draft.
He celebrated as his fellow Temple teammate Mardy Collins was selected by the New York Knicks with the No. 29 pick, knowing full well that he could one day be in a similar position. Sure enough, with the 2009 draft approaching on June 25, Christmas is slated to be a late first-round, early second-round pick.
“At that time, it was so far away. It was a big dream to me because I was a freshman,” the senior guard said. “But now, it’s really starting to come true, and I’m getting closer and closer every day to that dream. It’s crazy.”
Christmas, who won the Atlantic Ten Conference scoring title for three consecutive years, has been brushing up on his skills for the next level. Aside from occasional team practices, Christmas is staying in shape with cardio workouts and a lifting regimen.
He is also getting valuable information passed down from NBA friends Collins, Hakim Warrick and John Salmons.
“When you go [to the NBA], you have to be as focused as possible and just be in the best shape you can because the workouts are tough as far as conditioning,” Christmas said. “You got to be in as good as shape as anybody there.”
Christmas admits that one adjustment he’ll have to make is on the defensive side of the ball. However, he credits coaches John Chaney and Fran Dunphy with providing priceless lessons through four years of wearing No. 22.
“I was coached by two of the best coaches I think of all time,” Christmas said. “Coach Chaney is one of the best guard coaches of all time. I learned a bulk of things from him. I definitely learned a lot from coach Dunphy as far as the mental aspect. He’s very high on that.”
The 6-foot-5-inch scoring specialist has signed with agent Andre Buck, who also represents Collins and former Owls Dustin Salisbery and Mark Tyndale. Buck has been in contact with numerous teams that he said are interested in his client. Christmas does not have a favorite team pinned down but is prepared to pack his bags and relocate.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out,” Christmas said. “I’m willing to go to any team. I don’t care. Whether that’s the Lakers or Toronto Raptors, I don’t care.”
Christmas couldn’t help but ponder what teammates could be dishing him the ball at least 82 games per season.
“I would love to play with a point guard like Chris Paul or Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, one of those guys, and just sit in the corner,” Christmas said. “I watch a lot of guys like Rasual Butler and Kyle Korver. Those guys have great point guards, [and] they just sit in the corner and get a lot of open shots.”
Christmas is willing to accept whatever role he may get with a future NBA team. He said he believes his energy and leadership abilities make him a significant asset.
“I just want to come in to any team and contribute any way I can, whether that’s sitting in a corner knocking down threes or getting in the game and guarding the best player night in and night out,” Christmas said.
At Temple, Christmas finished fourth all-time in scoring with 2,043 points and first all time in made 3-pointers with 319. Plenty of accomplishments line his résumé on North Broad Street, but one goal still remains – to graduate.
Next week, Christmas plans to complete his degree in African-American studies and become an official alumnus. Then, a little more than a month later, he will soak in the sights and sounds of draft day from a much better vantage point than in 2006 – Madison Square Garden in New York.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.