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Max Christie, the superstar who stayed true to his hometown, signs with Michigan State

Rolling Meadows senior Max Christie has his signing day photo. No one can see it, but he’s smiling under that Michigan State mask. 

Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (seated) and his family on signing day 11 November, 2020. Left to right: Katrina Christie, Cameron Christie, Max Christie Sr.
Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (seated) and his family on signing day 11 November, 2020. Left to right: Katrina Christie, Cameron Christie, Max Christie Sr.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Signing Day is all about that photo, the one you see in the paper every year: one of the state’s best athletes surrounded by his family and teammates and coaches, finalizing the dream of a college scholarship.

Sometimes that photo is the peak. Sometimes it is just the beginning.

Rolling Meadows senior Max Christie, the state’s top-ranked basketball player, probably won’t get to play in front of sold-out crowds this season. He’ll almost certainly not play a state tournament game. The special moment when a great talent reaches down deep for that little bit of extra to try and extend his high school career one more game ... no one will ever see it.

But Christie has his signing day photo. No one can see it, but he’s smiling under that Michigan State mask.

“With COVID I didn’t think we’d be here in person signing,” Christie said. “I’m trying to look at the bright side. It means a lot. At least we are here and at least we are all here safe. I’m lucky and fortunate that I didn’t have to worry about COVID affecting my recruitment.”

While adults on social media argue and thrash back and forth over whether to play high school sports during COVID-19, Christie has come to terms with the hand he’s been dealt.

“It’s definitely a little bit upsetting to miss out on the big crowds and big games this season but it reinforces the fact that you have to be grateful for what you have because it can all be taken away like that,” Christie said. “My junior year we had a lot of good games and I can reflect on those.”

Basketball hasn’t stopped. It’s just a permanent offseason right now. He’s lucky to have a worthy in-house opponent. Christie’s younger brother Cameron, a sophomore, also has an offer from Michigan State.

Rolling Meadows senior Max Christie on signing day. Left to right: Katrina Christie, Max Christie, Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich.
Rolling Meadows senior Max Christie on signing day. Left to right: Katrina Christie, Max Christie, Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“People don’t know, but we do a lot,” Max’s dad, Max Christie Sr., said. “They work out a ton. The thing they are missing is the competition and the playing. We would love for them to play, but do they really need to play? Yes, but no.”

Christie’s level head comes from his parents. There hasn’t been any wild, overreaching sports parenting, despite his talent.

“They are absolutely amazing,” Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said of Christie’s parents. “They are a huge part of the whole Rolling Meadows community. They care about every kid in the program. That’s why Max is the way he is, because of the examples and role models he has to follow.”

It’s sad that Rolling Meadows won’t get to properly enjoy the Christie brothers this season. Most players as talented as Max would have left an unknown suburban school for brighter lights. He stayed, even when his senior season was put on hold.

Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (12) shoots the ball against Fenwick.
Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (12) shoots the ball against Fenwick.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“Every prep school has reached out at some point over the last four years,” Katrina Christie, Max’s mother, said. “It’s something we have not wanted to do. MSU has been very supportive of our decision to stay. They aren’t concerned at all about him and his development. Max’s friends are here and we felt like if you are good enough and you work hard enough, it doesn’t matter where you are.”

Christie is proof of that. And whatever success or failure follows over the rest of his basketball career, his hometown will remember that he stayed.

“There was no reason to leave this great community with great people, great teachers, classmates and everybody,” Christie said. “It was just a place where I wanted to be. I was going to take it as a challenge to bring Meadows back. So far we’ve done a good job, but hopefully we get a chance to do a little bit more.”