Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Column: Putting the rarity of Michigan State 2021 commit Max Christie into perspective

July 20, 2020
<p>MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo yells at the team during the basketball game against Wisconsin on Feb. 1, 2020 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The Spartans fell to the Badgers, 63-64.</p>

MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo yells at the team during the basketball game against Wisconsin on Feb. 1, 2020 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The Spartans fell to the Badgers, 63-64.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Lightning never strikes the same place twice … or at least that’s how the saying is supposed to go, but not in East Lansing, not for Tom Izzo and Michigan State basketball.

Lightning struck the Breslin Center twice in a nine-day span, the first being the commitment of the No. 1 high school player in the country, Emoni Bates. It may be hard to top the most acclaimed high school athlete since LeBron James, but the second strike was just as lethal and brought another No. 1 and stand out in Izzo’s two decade career: Max Christie.

Even for Izzo, a player like Christie is scarce and in many ways, unparalleled. The 2021 commit is Chicago-bred, from Rolling Meadows, Illinois and stands as a five-star, No. 1 ranked shooting guard in the country.

Since 2003, according to the 247Sports website player rankings, Izzo has landed commits from 10 five-star players; Bates being the highest ranked player in the list, earning a perfect score and setting the stage to be a generational talent. But in the past 17 years, the eight five-stars that have already made their way through the Spartan system have made an immense impact on their respective squads and beyond. 

To put in perspective the rarity of this five-star recruit, let’s look back at some of Izzo’s players who weren’t: Cassius Winston and Draymond Green were both four-stars. Durrell Summers, Keith Appling, Kalin Lucas, Drew Neitzel, Goran Suton and Xavier Tillman were all four-stars as well.

Even Denzel Valentine entered as a three-star recruit.

This shows two things: Christie is grouped in with some elite company, and Izzo doesn’t necessarily need him to be a five-star to develop him; Izzo has notably and consistently developed four-year guys into top-tier college basketball players.

Christie is a synonym for rare, especially in terms of Izzo’s recruits. He is fifth highest ranked recruit in Izzo’s illustrious 20-year career.

The No. 12 ranked player in the country will enter East Lansing ranked higher than some of Izzo’s best and other five-star recruits in Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Delvon Roe, Joshua Langford and even Gary Harris, whom Christie has drawn comparisons to.

Only Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr., Shannon Brown and future Spartan Emoni Bates have been ranked higher. There’s a reason Christie is ranked where he is.

The 6-foot-6 guard is versatile and a sharp shooter. He’s drawn comparisons to Spartan alumni like Harris and Valentine and has the potential for the immediate impact his five-star company Bridges and Jackson Jr. produced.

“I think I could be a great facilitator and great scorer, and I feel like I can do anything that coach Izzo or any of the players need me to do,” Christie told Andy Katz on FOX College Hoops, when he announced his commitment to Michigan State. “If that means rebounding and pushing the ball, or setting up an offense, or coming off pindown screens; Whatever it may be, I just feel like I’m versatile enough to do anything that’s asked of me.”

Christie averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds a game for Rolling Meadows this past season and showed he can score any way and from anywhere on the court, adapting to whatever play is asked of him. Three and D? He’s got it covered. Facilitate, drive, work off of ball screens or run iso-ball? Christie can do it.

His IQ makes him a multi-edged blade, and his talent an equally lethal weapon. The best part for Spartan fans? Christie is 100% committed.

“I’m not thinking about reclassing into 2020," Christie told Katz. "I haven’t really gotten an offer from any G-League and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be taking it. 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.”

In his only official visit, due to the pandemic closing shop for America and the recruiting trail, Christie found his home, so as he unzipped his USA Basketball zip-up to unveil a white Michigan State longsleeve, it felt right.

“My relationship with coach Izzo, I feel like it was great. It just felt like a place that I was needed and a place that I wanted to go to,” Christie told Katz. “When I took my official visit there back in the beginning of the year, I mean it was just that gut feeling that I felt it was right just for me to be able to go there and just experience the college life, and I think coach Izzo and his staff and all my teammates there can push me to be the person I want to be not only on, but off the court.”

When Christie thinks of Michigan State, he thinks of its prestige and history of winning. He will have the chance to continue that winning culture in 2021 as he joins Michigan’s No. 1 player and the Spartans' first 2021 commit, Pierre Brooks II. And with the potential of Bates reclassing to 2021, Christie has the chance to do more than just continue a winning culture. He has the chance to set a new precedent.

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