EVANSTON, ILL. – Everything was going as normal for MSU men’s basketball at a team shootaround on Saturday.
The Spartans were getting ready to face their third Big Ten opponent in Northwestern the following day. As they always do, head coach Tom Izzo wrote up a play for the team to execute.
The kind of play you go to for a game-winning shot. The one that sets up the best shooter, the most experienced guy. In this case, Izzo was crafting it to land in the hands of senior forward Gabe Brown.
But when Izzo presented the play to his captain, he was taken aback by the response.
"'No coach, we’re in Max’s house,” Izzo remembers of Brown's rebuttal. “This is a big deal, he was a ball boy here. We’re running it for Max.’”
“I looked at Gabe, who never passed up a shot since he was one day old, he was shooting out of the womb, to be honest with you, and I just said to myself, 'That makes coaching cool, that’s what makes it neat,'” Izzo said. “He was thinking of (Christie) and I ran a bad play, it didn’t work but just the thought of it says something about these players, this team and what they think of Max Christie.”
Christie’s 11-point, seven-rebound performance meant more than most homecomings do. He wasn’t just playing in his home city, he was playing at his mother’s alma mater.
The freshman’s mother, Katrina Hannaford Christie, surpassed 1,000 points in her time on the women’s basketball team at Northwestern. She has her own plaque in Welsh-Ryan Arena honoring "one of the most talented frontcourt players in Northwestern history."
And although this may have been his first matchup against the Wildcats, Christie stepped into familiar territory. In grade school, Christie was a ball boy for the program.
“This is practically my second college if I had to pick one. I grew up here, I was the ball boy here,” Christie said. “I’ve been around this program for a very long time, almost longer than Michigan State if I’m being honest.”
Christie noted his second-half putback dunk and fastbreak three-pointer as the highlights of MSU's 73-67 victory Sunday afternoon. The Arlington Heights, Illinois native was welcomed with a fan base of over 20 friends, high school teachers and family after the win. Even as Christie spoke with media in the hallway, cousins waved down their "hometown hero."
“That was the main goal for today to get his win for Max and Malik,” Brown said. “They did a good job, they brought energy they were excited. Max is hometown hero over here so we wanted to go out and just have him go out with a bang.”
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