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NBA draft watch: Max Christie stands out as intriguing prospect

Max Christie Michigan State basketball NBA draft
Max Christie had a solid freshman season for the Spartans, averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds. (Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Editor’s note: The Los Angeles Lakers selected G Max Christie with the No. 35 pick in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23.

CHICAGO (BVM) – The 2022 NBA draft will be held Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN, as many of this year’s top prospects look to make the jump to basketball’s highest level. There are several intriguing talents in this year’s draft with a wide range of outcomes regarding where they could be selected, and one of those is former Michigan State guard Max Christie.

After a strong freshman season, the Spartans’ guard decided to declare for the NBA draft, and after working out at the NBA draft combine last month, he chose to officially pursue a pro career. 

Most mock drafts currently have Christie as a second-round pick, but some see his upside getting him selected late in the first. No matter when he is selected, whoever picks Christie is getting an immense talent, but also a true leader with a strong work ethic according to his high school coach, Kevin Katovich. 

“Whoever does end up taking him, this will be the person they put on their cover every year because he’s going to be such a great ambassador for their team,” Katovich said. “When some team calls his name, I’m just going to be extremely happy for him and his family. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the behind-the-scenes stuff and how hard he works. To be rewarded with that would be outstanding … I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in all my years in education, in anything, set a goal for something and then not just talk about wanting it, but put in the work and the time, year after year, day after day, to reach that goal.”

Christie’s talent has long been evident. After first seeing him play when he was in fifth grade and later throughout his middle school years, Katovich knew the guard was special.

“Right from day one when he came, the first thing that you noticed, what you always notice about Max, is that he always has a huge smile on his face,” Katovich said. “And then he started playing on the court, demonstrating how good he was. It was evident even in fifth grade that he was really, really good, and when he was in eighth grade, we knew that he would be able to move up to varsity as a freshman and be a main contributor for us.”

He did just that, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds in his freshman season. Christie began gaining even more attention for his play during the USA Basketball tryouts for the FIBA World Championships in 2018. 

Max Christie Michigan State basketball NBA draft
After scoring 2.132 points in his high school career at Rolling Meadows, Cameron Christie went on to have a strong freshman season at Michigan State. (Credit: Credit Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Just months later, he put up 51 points playing for Rolling Meadows in an overtime win, culminating his sophomore season by averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds. That despite dealing with an early-season illness and a thigh contusion injury later that year.

The adversity simply made Christie stronger. Averaging similar numbers to his sophomore year in his junior and senior seasons, the guard’s game took off. By the end of his senior year, Christie had led his team to an undefeated season, finishing his high school career with 2,132 points. He was named Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Player of the Year and was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit.

“During his junior year, that’s when you really saw, not only is he a high-level college kid, this kid’s an NBA prospect,” Katovich said.

Christie comes from a tight-knit family that has good basketball genes, as his mom, Katrina, was a 1,000-point scorer at Northwestern, and his dad, Cormac, was a former collegiate player at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Meanwhile, Max also got to play alongside his younger brother, Cameron, for the final two seasons of his high school career.

It was Max’s family that helped him make the decision to play at Michigan State, and the atmosphere and tradition of the program led the basketball standout to East Lansing. Max continued to make his name known while playing for the Spartans as the guard started all but one game last season, averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 38.2% from the field, and 31.7% from deep. 

Perhaps most importantly, Max showed no fear while playing in a strong Big Ten conference for a legendary coach in Tom Izzo. He displayed tremendous defensive skill as he guarded some of the top prospects in this year’s draft during the conference season, and flashed his offensive potential at the same time, highlighted by a 21-point effort against Nebraska, and 16-point efforts against Minnesota, Maryland and rival Michigan.

“It was a really good fit for him,” Katovich said. “His success didn’t really surprise me … I think the one thing that was even more impressive than everything else was oftentimes, they’d put him on the other team’s best player … That says a lot about him because that’s such a tough thing to do, especially in a conference like the Big Ten.”

The 19-year-old’s strong defense combined with his length and size are things that can make him a valuable asset at the NBA level. So too are his athleticism, basketball IQ, smooth jump shot and ability to create. 

As clear as it is that Max has NBA-level talent, there’s more to his game than just that.

“He’s just an elite talent,” Katovich said. “Nobody realizes or understands how hard he works. He works incredibly hard on the court, in the weight room, he watches more film than anybody else. Nobody’s going to out-work him and nobody’s going to out-prepare him.”

After his freshman season with the Spartans, Christie declared for the NBA draft. While he maintained his eligibility initially, a good showing at the combine led him to hire an agent, officially pursuing his pro dreams.

Max will likely follow in the footsteps of some recent Spartans drafted into the NBA such as Gary Harris, Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr., and four-time champion, Draymond Green. Currently, Max is projected to go in a similar spot that Green did when the Golden State Warriors selected him 35th overall in 2012. No matter when he is selected, he is set to make a big impact similar to these past Spartans.

“I think he’s going to be somebody that’s in the NBA for a long time,” Katovich said. “What they’re getting is a complete player, a two-way player. He’s going to do whatever the team needs to win … Nobody will be more prepared or out-work him at that next level.”

If and when he is selected, Max will become the 23rd Michigan State player to be drafted during the Tom Izzo era. 

Max Christie Tom Izzo Michigan State basketball
Max Christie got to learn from one of college basketball’s best coaches, Tom Izzo, and will look to become the 23rd Spartan drafted since Izzo has been the head coach at Michigan State. (Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Recently, he has been back home, stopping in at Rolling Meadows prior to his big moment on Thursday. It’s a place that has meant a lot to Max, and a community that is eager and proud to hear his name called.

“I don’t think there are words to sum up how much he meant to our school, our culture and obviously, our high school basketball program,” Katovich said. “He truly was an ambassador for our school … I’ve never met a more respectable kid. Here’s someone with NBA talent, who just wanted to learn, just wanted to get better, but treated everybody, from the second-best player on the team to the managers, the custodians, the administrators, treated them all the same and with respect … I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

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