Despite Saint Josephs halftime lead, Fran Dunphys Temple squad never felt that the game was in doubt and stormed back to victory, largely due to Dionte Christmas
. Christmas, Temples 65 junior shooting guard, earned the tournaments most outstanding player award largely because of his 22 point (8/14 FG, 5/8 3FG, 1/1 FT), 4 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 steal performance.
Christmas scored in a variety of different ways, incredibly efficiently, and proved that he can find his offense even against long athletic defenders, something he was unable to do last night against Anjuan Wilderness and UNC-Charlotte. Tonight, Christmas showed off his perimeter stroke, which looked incredible. He gets very good elevation on his jump shot, and has a quick release, which combined with his long arms creates a very difficult shot to block. Christmas was able to get his shot off anywhere on the court, most of the time well beyond the college three point line. Though his shot selection is not the best, his ability to get his shot off, relatively consistently, from anywhere on the floor was on display tonight. After missing his first three perimeter jumpers, he hit his next five and opened up the paint for Temples big men to operate. Christmas is extremely streaky, going 8/22 from behind the arc throughout the tournament, but once he gets into a shooting rhythm, it is difficult to stop him. Just ask Tasheed Carr and Garrett Williamson, a couple of the Atlantic 10s best defenders. They played outstanding defense on Christmas and he still managed to score 22 points on 62% shooting.
One good thing about Christmass offense repertoire is his adaptability. Early in the first half, when his perimeter shot was not falling, he drove to the basket, where he can use his solid first step and strength to finish around the rim. Improving his handle should allow him to become a better slasher because he is noticeably slower off of the dribble. As he has also proven in the past, he is capable of drawing fouls around the rim, and though he could definitely become a better free throw shooter, he finds ways to put points on the board, even if his perimeter shot is not falling. He also shows a developing mid-range game, pulling up off of the dribble. He needs to improve his ball handling ability if he wants to be a good mid-range scorer, but the instincts are there.
He again showed a solid defensive effort, using his long arms, strength, and good lateral quickness. One problem, however, is that he uses his hands too much, which in this tournament has landed him in foul trouble in all three games. Christmas may not be an athletic specimen, but he should be able to hold his own at the next level on defense and should not be a liability.
Elsewhere, it is important to acknowledge his court awareness. While teammate Mark Tyndale
gets most statistical credit, Christmas is a good passer who realizes how to move the ball within Temples offense. Christmas understands that this is not yet his team, and despite his 20 points per game scoring average, he is still very much a role player in Temples system. In addition, Christmas has learned Dunphys system extremely well and can make an impact on the floor even if he is not scoring. He has the opportunity and the potential to have an incredible senior season and should very much be in the 2009 NBA Draft conversation.