Villanova is in the running to get an oral commitment from one of the nation's elite high school basketball players in the Class of 2011.
Academy of the New Church junior-to-be Rakeem Christmas lists 'Nova among his eight college choices. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward said yesterday that Georgetown, Florida, Texas, Indiana, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Baylor are the other schools he's considering.
Christmas, who transferred from North Catholic in June, hasn't decided when he'll make his decision. He can't sign a national letter of intent until November 2010.
"I appreciate the interest that many coaches have in me," said the 17-year-old, who isn't related to former Temple player Dionte Christmas. "But these are the schools that my family and I think would be a good fit for me."
Christmas likes Villanova because it's close to his Southwest Philly home. He also admires Wildcats coach Jay Wright.
"He's a good person," Christmas said. "I've been to some of his practices. I like the way he goes around and interacts with the players. He's more like a father figure. He motivates and teaches."
One notable omission from Christmas' list was Kentucky.
Last summer, then-Memphis coach John Calipari and Memphis assistant Orlando Antigua began recruiting Christmas for the Tigers. In April, Calipari became the head coach at Kentucky and hired Antigua as an UK assistant. At that point, it was believed that Christmas would at least give Kentucky strong consideration.
"It's more about style of play," said Amira Hamid, Christmas' aunt and legal guardian. "It's nothing against Cal. We have a great relationship with him and the coaches on his staff."
Wherever Christmas ends up, the athletic shot-blocker most likely will become the prized recruit.
Scout.com (fifth) and Rivals.com (sixth) both have him ranked among the nation's top six players in the Class of 2011. He will be listed in the top 10 by Bob Gibbons All Star Sports when its rankings are released later this summer.
"He plays above the rim and has a good nose for rebounds on both ends of the floor," said Norm Eavenson, a recruiting analyst for Gibbons. He is "very teachable and desires to improve."
Christmas averaged 10.6 points, 7.32 rebounds, and 3.28 blocks last season for North Catholic.
He elevated his game this summer by routinely blocking shots for Delaware County's Team Final AAU team. Christmas also stood out at the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and the Amar'e Stoudemire Nike Skills Academy.
Christmas was also a member of the 2011 Adidas United States national team that competed in last week's third-annual Adidas Nations camp in Texas. He will compete in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 game at New York City's Rucker Park on Aug. 21. The game features 24 of the nation's top high school players, regardless of class.