Max Christie is a nationally known player now, a McDonald’s All-American.
It’s easy to forget that four years ago Christie took us all by surprise. His name wasn’t on anyone’s lips as the state’s best incoming freshman.
“I remember all the other kids that were really good in seventh grade having these mixtapes and stuff,” Christie said. “I never had a mixtape [in junior high]. My parents didn’t really throw me out there. Everyone knowing who you are in seventh and eighth grade as you are a young kid maturing and going into high school, I just didn’t think it was necessary and neither did my parents. And now four years, five years later it really paid off. I didn’t need all that attention. It just naturally came, we didn’t force it on me.”
Christie’s parents, Max Sr. and Katrina, both played basketball in college. Katrina was a star at Northwestern and Max Sr. was the leading scorer at Wisconsin-Superior. That experience clearly gave them confidence that mixtapes and hype wouldn’t be necessary for their son to succeed.
The Rolling Meadows senior was an instant sensation in high school. He started filling up the stat sheet as a freshman and never stopped. That surprised his coaches, but not his parents.
“To be honest, yes, we knew he would start out that well,” Katrina Christie said. “We knew how much work he had put in on and off the court. We didn’t feel this need to put him out there and expose him everywhere. We just kind of kept it quiet and local but we knew what he was capable of and I guess we had more faith in him than everybody else.”
Christie may be the first Sun-Times Player of the Year that has been outscored in a high school game by his mother. Katrina (Hannaford) Christie scored 55 points in a game for Eau Claire Memorial, a high school in Wisconsin.
Christie’s best game in high school was 51 points.
“I wasn’t thinking about my mom’s 55 during that game at all,” Christie said. “It was kind of a close game so I was pretty focused on that.”
Christie led Rolling Meadows to a perfect 15-0 record this season but there was no state tournament due to COVID-19 mitigations. The Mustangs were also limited to a handful of non-conference games and weren’t able to play in the Chipotle Clash of Champions due to conference commitments.
Those circumstances led to Christie being a Player of Year that much of the area has never seen play, a rarity in this era of high-profile shootouts.
“It’s not that big of a deal to me,” Christie said. “If anyone really wanted to come see me they probably would have made the time to come do it. People can watch me on TV next year. I’m not really concerned about the backlash or any reaction to me winning this award. I’m just glad I won it.”
Rolling Meadows didn’t face a Public League powerhouse during Christie’s high school career. The highest profile game the Mustangs played over the last four years was Christie’s junior year when they lost to Bryce Hopkins and Fenwick.
“No one in the city wanted to play Rolling Meadows,” Max Christie Sr. said. “It just so happened that he is known more nationally than he is locally. People can’t say he’s no good because they haven’t seen him play.”
“He’s played plenty of [top players] in situations that maybe aren’t public for everyone to come watch,” Katrina Christie said. “I think it is more of a motivator for him.”
Christie averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks this season. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo speaks often of Christie’s ability to distribute and play multiple positions, he’s more than just a shooter.
Christie is also the first local player to turn down a scholarship offer from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Duke wasn’t the right fit but the biggest thing was that Michigan State really preached what they wanted and what they needed me to be,” Christie said. “Just looking at the offense, what would fit me best, Michigan State was the better fit for me.”
Christie is unique in another way. He’s the first Player of the Year from the Mid-Suburban League.
“My goal coming in to high school was to put Rolling Meadows back on the map,” Christie said. “I think especially this year a lot of people saw that the Mid-Suburban League wasn’t just a walk in the park. We had Hersey, Buffalo Grove, a lot of great teams in there. To be the first kid in this area to win the Sun-Times Player of the Year feels great, to break that barrier and show that the MSL is a great conference to play in.”
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2020—DJ Steward, Young
2019—DaJuan Gordon, Curie
2014—Cliff Alexander, Curie
2013—Jahlil Okafor, Young
2012—Jabari Parker, Simeon
2011—Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park
2010—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan
2009—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan
2008—Kevin Dillard, Homewood-Flossmoor
2007—Derrick Rose, Simeon
2005—DeAndre Thomas, Westinghouse
2004–Calvin Brock, Simeon
2003—Shannon Brown, Proviso East
2002—Sean Dockery, Julian
2001—Eddy Curry, Thornwood
2000—Cedrick Banks, Westinghouse
1999—Leon Smith, King
1998—Quentin Richardson, Young
1997—Melvin Ely, Thornton
1996—Ronnie Fields, Farragut
1995—Kevin Garnett, Farragut
1994—Jerry Gee, St. Martin de Porres
1993—Rashard Griffith, King
1992—Chris Collins, Glenbrook North
1991—Sherell Ford, Proviso East
1990—Jamie Brandon, King
1989—Deon Thomas, Simeon
1988—Eric Anderson, de Sales
1987—Marcus Liberty, King
1986—Nick Anderson, Simeon
1985—Michael Ingram, Proviso West
1984—Hersey Hawkins, Westinghouse
1983—Len Bertolini, St. Patrick
1982—Bernard Jackson, Phillips
1981—Walter Downing, Providence
1980—Glenn Rivers, Proviso East
1979—Isiah Thomas, St. Joseph
1978—Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse
1977—Eddie Johnson, Westinghouse
1976—Glen Grunwald, East Leyden
1975—Pete Boesen, Maine South
1974—Audie Matthews, Bloom
1973—Mark Vitali, St. Charles
1972—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge
1971—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge
1970—Lloyd Batts, Thornton
1969—Jim Brewer, Proviso East
1968—Jeff Hickman, Lockport
1967—Rick Howat, Downers Grove
1966—Rich Bradshaw, Marshall
1965—Terry Hurley, Steinmetz
1964—Eugene Ford, Crane
1963—Joe Allen, Carver
1962—Cazzie Russell, Carver
1961—Bob Caress, Thornton
1960—George Wilson, Marshall