For Michigan State, beating Ohio State clinched Big Ten title, and Max Christie's commitment
It was back in early March, when everything still made sense in the world of college basketball.
Michigan State was riding a wave of emotion, about to win its fifth in a row, capture a share of a third straight Big Ten championship, celebrate a bittersweet Senior Day with Cassius Winston and head to the postseason with its eye on raising another banner.
The Spartans got the job done that day, beating Ohio State and sending Winston out in grand fashion. The Big Ten championship banner went to the Breslin Center rafters.
Tom Izzo’s voice was raspy, the fans were delirious.
It was vintage Michigan State basketball.
As it turns out, there was one important visitor that day — Max Christie — who was taking it all in, soaking up the atmosphere and getting lost in the euphoria of winning.
The top-rated shooting guard in the nation was on his official visit to campus, a place he’d been a handful of times before. But it was that day, as the program celebrated in a familiar style, that Christie knew he’d found his new home.
“When I went on an official visit there early in the year that kind of really took me over the top,” Christie told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “It was my favorite school at that point, but I didn't really want to jump the gun. I wanted to visit other schools and make sure that Michigan State was the right one for me.”
As it turned out, the world was overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, seasons were canceled and recruiting was shut down.
No matter. Christie already knew — deep down — where he was going. It was solidified that day nearly four months ago and became official on Tuesday when the five-star guard announced he was committing to Michigan State as part of the 2021 class.
“I'd say it was just the relationship with the players and coaches,” Christie said. “When I went there, I just felt like I was able to fit in with everybody and I was able to just be myself around everybody. And it was a family and a culture that I wanted to fit into and that I felt like I wasn't only wanted there, but I was needed there. And it was something that I really wanted to capitalize on and make sure that I made the most out of the opportunity.”
Christie’s announcement comes just eight days after Ypsilanti’s Emoni Bates, the top-ranked player in the nation regardless of class, said he was committing to Michigan State, giving Izzo back-to-back recruiting home runs.
At 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, Christie has some bulk to add but was already the No. 13 recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports and is the top-rated shooting guard. Duke was in hot pursuit, but Michigan State won this recruiting tussle — an added bonus for Izzo and his staff in an already impressive of couple weeks — also edging out the likes of Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Ohio State.
He joins four-star guard Pierre Brooks II from Detroit, and with the possibility that Bates could reclassify and become part of the 2021 class, the chances of putting together the best group in Izzo’s tenure is a distinct possibility.
“My role now is just obviously trying to get the best class we possibly can to come to Michigan State,” Christie said. “So I'm going to try to do my best to recruit kids that I feel like would be best for our program, and then obviously just being able to advertise and just show how good Michigan State can be in the next year or two.”
Landing Christie, alone, certainly will make Michigan State a better team. Christie averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds a game last season at Rolling Meadows High School in Illinois, and has used the recent down time to bulk up and add some muscle to his frame.
When he ultimately arrives on campus, he’s ready to do whatever it takes to win.
“I think I bring a very versatile playing style, someone who can shoot the ball coming off ball screens, pin downs, dribble action, or even spot up,” Christie said. “Then obviously, I can run an offense also, get the rebound and push the ball and I can kick it ahead, or I could take it all myself. But I'm someone who will simply just do what the team needs me to do, and I'll do whatever it takes to win.”
While Christie made his announcement live on Twitter in an interview with FOX college basketball analyst Andy Katz, he said he told Izzo a couple of weeks ago, before anyone knew of Bates’ plans.
“It’s a prestigious program not only in the Big Ten but nationally,” he said on FOX. “They win a lot and they know what’s they’re doing. They have a winning culture and a great family.”
While there’s still uncertainty over Bates’ future — he could opt to play professionally in the G-League or overseas if the NBA’s one-and-done rule does not change — Christie said he intends fully to play at Michigan State, saying he wasn’t waiting for a G-League offer.
“Even if I did (get a G-League offer), I probably wouldn't be taking it," Christie said. "I kind of want to go to college and just experience college, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I think I'm 100% committed to Michigan State.”
Christie isn’t the only member of the family that has caught the eye of the Spartans. Cameron Christie, the younger brother of Max who just completed his freshman season at Rolling Meadows, has reportedly received a scholarship offer from Michigan State.
Max Christie won’t be trying to steer his brother in a certain direction, but said he’ll do his best to be supportive throughout the process.
“That's what I'm here for, just being able to guide him along the path of recruiting,” Max Christie said. “Obviously, with me coming to Michigan State, I'm not gonna try to drag him into Michigan State at all. I'm just going to guide him and make sure he makes the best decision for himself. I just want to make sure that he learns from what I’ve done and make sure that he hopefully becomes even better than me in this whole process.”