Max Christie didn’t enter his freshman season at Michigan State basketball with the expectation that he would be a one-and-done. But after the Spartans’ loss to Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Christie realized he was ready.
The opportunity to prove himself in the NBA outweighed his desire to return to East Lansing and build on a promising, yet inconsistent inaugural season. Christie signed with an agent and forfeited his college eligibility on Monday. His hope is that a noteworthy showing in this week’s NBA draft combine, just miles from his hometown of Arlington Heights, Illinois, in addition to strong team interviews and individual workouts, will secure his place in the June 23 draft.
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“I think it’s just betting on myself and being confident in myself and the preparation that I put into this game,” Christie told reporters at the combine on Thursday. “I think that’s all it really is, just having confidence in myself and knowing I feel like I’m ready for this level and am able to contribute.”
Christie, a 6-foot-6 wing, started all but one game for MSU last season and averaged of Michigan State’s regular season games as a freshman and averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds. The 2021 five-star recruit was a gifted shooter in high school, but his 3-point stroke wasn’t as reliable in college, shooting just 38.2% overall and 31.7% from the 3-point line.
Outside shooting is still the aspect of the game he’s most confident in, he said. But he’s aware teams will have concerns about why it didn’t translate in college. Christie isn’t concerned that he’ll struggle to shoot in the NBA, but it’ll be considered a question mark until he proves otherwise.
“I think it was just the transition for me, to be honest,” Christie said. “The transition from high school to the college game. For me, it took a little bit longer than I expected, took longer than most people. That’s just the way the domino’s fell. I’m not worried about it. I’m still confident in myself and my ability to shoot.
“It may not have been reflected this past year but I think I know and I think everyone knows I’m a better shooter than what I produced. Not really worried about the numbers that were produced. I’m a better shooter and I’m going to shoot it better in the NBA.”
While Christie struggled to shoot, Tom Izzo was a big fan of his defensive effort. Christie was regularly matched up against the other team’s best guard or forward, and he held his own in many matchups. Adding more muscle and weight to his lanky 190-pound frame is an offseason focus for him.
Izzo has been publicly supportive of Christie’s decision to leave Michigan State, even though his departure hurts his roster in the short term. All three of the Spartans’ leading scorers last season — Christie and seniors Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr — are turning pro. Christie likely would’ve seized a larger share of the offense had he returned.
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“Coach Izzo’s been nothing but supportive and he’s held me to a high standard, which is what I asked for,” Christie said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked and he’s done a great job just living up to who he is, the great coach he is and the great person he is. My relationship with him is good for sure.”
Christie said his draft range is between 20 and 40, but his biggest desire is to land with a team that’s willing to be patient and develop him. He has talked to several Spartans currently in the NBA — Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Draymond Green and Gary Harris — about the draft process. Declaring after one season of college might be a bit of a gamble for Christie, but he understands that his is the first step of a longer process to enjoy a stable professional career.
“One thing that, for me, is going to be beneficial is going to be time,” Christie said. “I’m only 19 years old and I think being in an NBA system for a few years is really going to help me grow and improve over time. A team that’s willing to do that, the resources that have been implemented and the things that have been done in recent years promotes that for me.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.