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Notes & Quotes: Everything is a “learning experience” for Michigan State Basketball freshman Max Christie

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: MAR 30 American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3 Point Championships Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan State men’s basketball freshman shooting guard Max Christie arrived on campus in East Lansing in late May, and has been working out and practicing with the hoops squad while trying to get acclimated to his new surroundings after making the transition from high school to college. On Monday, Christie met with the media for the first time as an official member of the Spartans.

One of the big priorities for Christie since he got to campus is working on his body and making sure he is in the best shape he can be in once the season starts against high-level college athletes.

Christie also believes that the stronger his body gets, and the more he gets his cardio up, the more his defense will improve. These are all key factors for the young wing player’s development, especially playing in the Big Ten Conference.

“I think lifting-wise and strength-wise, I’ve definitely done a great job of just working hard in the weight room every single day when we do lift as a team,” Christie said. “Making sure that I’m working hard with the guys, encouraging the guys, giving them energy as well as them giving me energy. I think with time, as time comes, when the season rolls around, I’ll have made great strides in that area. Along with that comes the defense. We’re working that on defense every day in practice, and every day even before we lift we do some mobility stuff. So I think, even with strength, the fact that my legs can get stronger, my body can get stronger, my defensive ability will get even better with time.”

Christie later added that the energy has been great in the weight room, and it has been fun getting to know his teammates while strength training. He currently weights 190 pounds, while the strength and conditioning staff want to see him at a solid 200 pounds when the season begins this fall.

As for the transition from the high school ranks to the college level, Christie says it’s been a generally smooth process. Still, he has only been on campus for a few weeks and now as a college student-athlete, away from home, he naturally has more responsibilities.

“It’s been great,” Christie said about his time so far in East Lansing. “The transition’s been really easy. The supporting staff, all of the players, teammates, coaches, everybody’s made it really easy for me to transition here. But I think the hardest transition is just the fact that I’m in college now so I have to take care of myself. I have to do my own jobs, I have to make sure that I plan ahead for these sort of things. So that’s probably the hardest thing — just making sure that I’m on time to everything and making sure that I’m doing things the right way and to the best of my ability. But with the supporting cast that we have here, everything has been smooth sailing for the most part.”

In terms of Christie’s expected role with the team, that is still being worked out here in the early summer sessions of practice. With that said, he knows what he brings to the table, and his role will grow as the season gets closer.

“Yeah, it certainly is early,” Christie said about his expected role with the Spartans. “But I think just being able to run the floor, fill the lanes, fill the spots. Being able to be a shooting threat and being able to space the floor. If I could be a shooting threat at all positions of the floor, it just creates more spacing for us, and that will just lead to more opportunities, not only for myself, but for my teammates — to get me open looks or to get themselves open looks. So I think (my role) is just being a floor-spacer as of now, but I am sure that as time goes on, more roles will be fit into and all that sort of stuff.”

Outside of the general transition to college life, the biggest adjustment Christie has had to make is getting used to going from playing against high school-level kids versus now practicing against college-level athletes. The speed and physicality between the two levels are obviously very different.

“Just the strength and the speed of the game, it’s just different at every single level,” Christie said. “That’s the biggest transition for every basketball player in my opinion, when you go from level to level. The speed of the game — especially here (at MSU) how fast we play — it’s certainly different from a high school game. And then just the strength, you know the strength of all the players you’re going against, my teammates, and all that sort of stuff. So it’s definitely a bit of a transition, but I think I’ve been handling it well for the most part.”

One thing that has been brought up often by Michigan State fans — even here in the comments section at The Only Colors — is who is going to step up and be a leader for this team? With Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford moving on, the door is wide open for a leader to emerge.

One thing head coach Tom Izzo often preaches is that he wants a player-led team. According to Christie, just about everybody on the team has taken on that mindset, especially, the upperclassmen.

“I think everybody’s taken that (leadership) role almost,” Christie said. “Especially the seniors, Marcus Bingham, Gabe Brown, (and juniors), Malik Hall, Julius Marble, all those kind of guys. Especially what happened last season, everybody’s really motivated to make sure that this season is kind of that ‘get-back’ season and we capitalize on it.

“So we’re really trying to make sure that we’re having that player-led team. Especially coming off of last season, we want to make sure that everything’s gonna be the way the old Michigan State and the real Michigan State team should be, and part of that is player-led teams. I think that all of the guys have done a great job embodying that philosophy, and it’s been going great so far in terms of the leadership.”

Christie went on to say that he has tried to pick Gabe Brown’s brain a bit. The one thing Brown has emphasized to Christie is that “you need to be about your business.” Brown has made it clear to Christie that he needs to work hard on court, off the court, in the class room, in the weight room and everywhere else.

Christie isn’t alone as the only true freshman on the 2021-2022 Michigan State squad. Fellow freshman guard Jaden Akins arrived to campus at the same time, while Pierre Brooks II will be arriving a little bit later this summer, and there are also a few walk-on freshmen expected to join the team. Christie and Akins have gotten close during their few weeks together on campus.

“Now I know Jaden a lot better, because we’re pretty much living together almost on campus,” Christie said. “It’s just really nice to have somebody else — and Pierre (Brooks) will come eventually — but it’s just really nice to have two other freshmen that are in the same shoes as me in terms of it’s our first year of college, we don’t know what to really expect. So when we walk through everything together, it’s really good to just experience everything together for the first time. And, of course, we obviously have our upperclassmen, our seniors and our sophomores and juniors, who can really help us out with anything. But we really rely on each other to make sure that we’re going through everything together, we’re experiencing everything for the first time together.”

In addition to building a camaraderie with his fellow freshmen and the rest of his teammates, Christie was also happy about Doug Wojcik — who spent a lot of time recruiting and building a relationship with Christie as Michigan State’s recruiting coordinator — being promoted to one of MSU’s assistant coaches. Wojcik’s sons also played AAU ball with Christie, and Christie said it is nice to have somebody he is “personally close with” on the coaching staff.

Of course, a player of Christie’s recruiting profile — a five-star prospect, the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2021 class and the No. 17 recruit in the nation overall, according to 247Sport’s Composite Rankings — is going to come in with some high expectations from the fans. He also led his high school team, Rolling Meadows, to a perfect 15-0 record and won Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Illinois. Christie, a well-spoken 18-year-old, is going to block out the noise and accomplish his goals in his own way.

“I definitely think that there’s some expectations for me,” Christie said. “Everybody wants me to be this certain type of player or produce this amount of numbers. But I think I’m just going into it for the first time, just being able to make everything a learning experience. There’s got to be some sort of pressure on me that everybody wants me to do this, this and that, but I’m just going in with the mindset that I’ve worked hard my entire life for this moment and the work will take care of itself. Whether it’s ups and downs, whether it’s a bad game, good game, whatever it may be, I’m gonna make sure that I’m getting through and I’m learning something out of it the whole time. I’m just really excited to start, all the hard work to show.”

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