Any other year the commitment of Max Christie to Michigan State would have probably drawn major headlines and it would have been the talk around East Lansing for quite a while. This year though everything is a bit different, for various reasons. Not only did Christie commit nine days after Emoni Bates, maybe the biggest basketball recruit MSU has secured since half a century ago. He also chose to play for Tom Izzo and the Spartans in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic where everything and then some is going off the rails. Nonetheless, Christie deserves way more hype than he initially received. He is a true five-star talent and will bring a lot to the table when he enrolls on campus in 2021.
Cormac Carl Christie Jr., he goes by Max as you know, is from Arlington Heights, Illinois. His parents Cormac (also Max) Senior and Katrina both played college basketball, with his mother scoring over 1,000 points for Northwestern University during her heyday. Max Junior has grown up all his life in suburban Chicago and he started to play basketball in first grade. His recruitment started to gain major steam during his sophomore year and plenty of big time college programs were interested in his services. Most notably the Duke Blue Devils made him an offer but they couldn‘t crack his final five which were MSU, Ohio State, Purdue, Villanova and Virginia. Other interested schools included Baylor, Cal, Stanford, Michigan, Florida and Northwestern. Christie starred for Rolling Meadows High School alongside his younger brother Cameron who is an upcoming talent in his own right. His only official visit was to Michigan State before the pandemic started, a big advantage for the Spartans who were also in on the now 17-year-old from the get go. Christie said he is especially close with Malik Hall on the current Spartans roster, a player he knows from back home in Chicago. Spartan coaches have compared him to Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine. Christie excelled in school, is extremely well spoken (as shown off in his commitment interview with Andy Katz) and was an honor roll student at Rolling Meadows.
What his high school coach has to say
“He is the type of player who finds out what he needs to work on and then will tirelessly work on it. His skillset is unbelievable. And there‘s that ‘Wow‘ factor that we see every day that Michigan State will enjoy.”
-Rolling Meadows HS coach Kevin Katovich
What Max Christie said about Michigan State
“Michigan State is just a prestigious program, they win a lot. Coach Izzo is easily as good as it gets in college or at any level. I think it really helped me a lot, being able to have a great relationship with him and trust him in all aspects, even off the court. Just being able to trust him in guiding me wherever I need to go is huge.”
High school and AAU basketball
Christie played for the Rolling Meadows Mustangs in suburban Chicago and for the Illinois Wolves on the Under Armour AAU circuit. Prominent names who also played for the traditional but nationally not particularly well known program include later NBA players and Big Ten standouts Frank Kaminsky and Evan Turner. Christie could have played for bigger AAU programs in EYBL like Mac Irvin Fire but chose to stay with the Wolves. Coming from a small school he didn‘t always face the greatest competition in high school but definitely showed well whenever he took the court. As a sophomore he averaged 26 points per game, had numerous double-doubles, a 50 point game and even a triple-double. As a junior Christie led his team to their first 20 win campaign in nearly 30 years and averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Christie was also a regular on different USA basketball youth teams, competing in various camps and international competitions. In 2019 he won a gold medal as part of Team USA at the FIBA Americas U16 championship. During the tournament he averaged 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds for the unbeaten champions.
The one thing everyone mentions first when talking about Max Christie is his shooting and rightfully so. He just has a beautiful and pure jumper that he can get off from basically anywhere on the court. All the intangibles — ball placement, elbow placement, feet position, motion, hand position, base — look incredibly advanced for a 17-year-old high school player. His length at 6-foot-6 (including long arms) is only the icing on the cake and make him a complete package as a natural shooter. He can both pull up off the dribble and when he catches the ball on the fly, something that seems obvious but is actually a very important skill that scouts look for in a player. His transition from the dribble into his shot is nearly flawless and while his overall release isn‘t super quick right now defenders will often be surprised by him taking a deep jumper. His range is already next level and he doesn‘t fear to take a shot early in the shot clock. He isn‘t a ruthless gunner though. His body type and movements at times can remind you of Reggie Miller, one of the greatest shooters who ever set foot on the NBA floor. Clearly Christie has a long way to go before he can even think of being compared to a guy like that. but his natural stroke, his pure jump shot and the ability to get it off at ease are tremendous starting points for any prospect.
Talking about Christie just being a shooter wouldn‘t do him justice though as he has a well rounded, complete offensive game. His handles are good and fairly tight, especially his crossover gets him a lot of space in an instant. He isn‘t shy of attacking the basket, especially in transition where he gets most aggressive and finds another gear. When he gets into the lane he can do a better job of getting his body to go downhill and not waste as much time and space going laterally but that should come. He isn‘t a world class athlete by any means but knows how to use his length to his advantage. His movements are very fluid when going to the basket and with the help of long steps he sometimes almost glides up towards the rim. A major plus you can already see with him is his use of the left hand, both dribbling the ball and finishing with it at the rim. He looks very comfortable using it and that makes him that much harder to prepare for now and in the future. Christie also possesses a midrange game with floaters off one foot, stepbacks, turnarounds and other shots that have been forgotten by many upcoming players today. That Christie has such a diverse arsenal of moves speaks to his intelligence, work ethic and creativity on the court.
Speaking of his intelligence, it is obvious that Christie has a basketball mind way beyond years already. He always seems under control, isn‘t a very loud player and while you will see a clenched fist here or there he isn‘t going to scream into his opponent‘s face or act very demonstrative. He understands angles, game situations and operates at his own speed wherever he is on the court. He played plenty of point guard for his high school team, showing off both strong passing instincts and the mental merit to lead a team. While you could definitely describe him as a “cool customer” on the court, at times he can almost get too smooth if that makes sense. Rolling to his own tune he sometimes gets caught up in between decisions and doesn‘t really follow through with a play until the end. As a passer, he at times gets to careless and too often just flips the ball away with one hand. That‘s not going to work against better competition.
While Christie certainly is a major offensive talent, defensively and physically there are plenty of question marks. His high school team played a zone defense most of the time and he was the man in the middle being the tallest kid on his team. He played pretty solid in there despite his incredibly thin frame and he doesn‘t shy away from contact at all. But considering he will spend most of his time guarding the perimeter in the future, all the things like footwork, fighting over screens (something he hasn‘t shown too well as of now), playing lanes or recovering on broken plays is all projection. While he is rail thin at the moment, Christie‘s base is actually solid and on offense he moves his feet very well so you should be optimistic for his defensive future. I really like his rebounding fundamentals as well as he looks to box out immediately when a ball goes up, doesn‘t waste his jump early and snatches balls out of the air with authority.
A lot of Max Christie‘s next level potential is a little more of a projection right now (even more so than with other prospects) as he hasn‘t faced tremendous competition in high school and has a lot of room to grow physically. But with that said, his strengths and talents are so advanced and so unique that they should give him a very positive outlook for the future. You just can‘t teach his length and shooting natural shooting ability. If he continues to develop physically (he has added 15 pounds during the last year and is now up to 185), gets a bit quicker, a bit stronger and a bit more explosive, then there is no reason why he shouldn‘t be at the very least a top level NCAA shooting guard and even more. His length and pure jumper alone make him an NBA prospect, it‘s up to him to add to that resume. He should look to develop a little more of a killer instinct, his game would certainly make it OK for him to take over even more than he already does.
Christie certainly is a very intelligent, high-character kid and a player you will be proud to cheer on when he steps on the court at the Breslin Center. And when he puts on that additional muscle and gets that little extra step of explosiveness, watch out!