Rolling Meadows senior Cam Christie commits to Minnesota

Cam Christie has been the rare teenage college prospect who doesn’t advertise every step while navigating the recruiting process.

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Rolling Meadows’ Cameron Christie (24) shoots against St. Patrick during the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Rolling Meadows’ Cameron Christie (24) shoots against St. Patrick during the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The recruitment of Cameron Christie wasn’t for public consumption, thanks in large part to the Rolling Meadows star not being one to self-promote.

When it comes to recruiting, Christie has been the rare teenaged college prospect who doesn’t advertise every step while navigating the recruiting process.

Christie didn’t trim his list to 10 or name a top five. He didn’t even post his scholarship offers on Twitter.

“I just don’t think there is a need for everyone to know you’ve received this offer or you’re going to this campus for this visit or taking these pictures while you’re there,” Christie said.

“At the end of the day, it means absolutely nothing if people know you have an offer or not. So for me and my family to know about it, versus letting the whole world know about it, is enough for me.”

Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich laughs at even the thought of his all-state player being braggadocious when it comes to his recruitment.

“I honestly don’t think any of that matters to him, and it never has,” Katovich said. “He just loves to play basketball. His game does the talking for him, and for him that stuff isn’t all that important to him or needed.”

So as the high-major offers came pouring in the past year — including from Missouri, USC, Virginia, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa State, Marquette and Cal — along with hearing from Gonzaga and Villanova this past month, no one was quite sure where Christie, a 6-5 senior, stood with the process.

That was fine with Christie and his refreshing, laid-back approach to recruiting.

“I don’t think there is a need to go completely overboard with it,” Christie said. “I feel like it’s kind of flexing it in other people’s faces when you do that stuff.”

There was a school and coach that were impressed very early on and continued making inroads, regularly leaving an impression with Christie along the way: Minnesota and Ben Johnson.

Christie, the state’s No. 1 prospect in the class, made it official Friday, committing to the Gophers.

“Their love for me,” Christie said when asked what stood out about the Gophers. “They showed, above all else, a lot of love and a genuine belief in me. They were in the mix super early. And their entire staff was part of it.”

Johnson has pursued Christie, who has made a couple of trips to the Minneapolis campus, for well over a year. The Gophers’ staff didn’t miss one of Christie’s games during the live periods in April, June and July while he played with Rolling Meadows and the Illinois Wolves on the Under Armour club basketball circuit.

Even when Christie sat out with an injury at the Ridgewood Shootout in June –– and Johnson and his entire staff knew he wouldn’t be playing –– the head coach and all three assistants still came and watched. The four coaches all in the gym was an exclamation point in simply showing their support and how much they coveted Christie.

“Coach Johnson and his whole staff were in [my recruitment] early,” Christie said. “They were showing interest in me if I had 30 points in a game or if I played awful in a game. They were always there. Not because of my name or if I had one good tournament. I appreciate that they were there for the long haul.”

It’s not very often an out-of-state school that isn’t a Blue Blood or current high-major power is able to secure a commitment from the state’s top-ranked prospect.

But Minnesota went into Illinois and nabbed the top senior because of the vision Johnson was able to convey to Christie, both with the direction of the program and the straight-foward belief in him as a player.

The second-year head coach is in the midst of building the Minnesota program, and he made it abundantly clear to Christie how much he believes the talented guard can be a major building block for his program.

“I like the direction they are heading in and I developed a close bond with coach Johnson,” said Christie, who averaged 22 points a game as a junior. “They did a great job demonstrating they wanted me for me.”

And since Minnesota was in on Christie so early, he was able to watch and analyze Johnson as a coach all last season.

“Even though he is just going into his second year, I like the way he coaches,” Christie said. “All six or seven of those guys in their rotation last year had the confidence to take whatever shot was open or whatever aggressive play they could make. I really appreciate the fact all his players looked and felt confident. The coaching style stood out and how coach Johnson instills belief in his players is something that really stood out to me. Those are the type of coaches you want to play for.”

The reward for Minnesota’s efforts is getting a wiry, versatile guard with size and endless length who can play on and off the ball. He easily glides up and down the floor while showcasing a wide range of offensive skills as a playmaker and a scoring threat. While playing at his own pace, he facilitates, scores in multiple ways and knows how to use his skills and strengths to his advantage.

“I think he brings that extra intangible of a killer instinct that a lot of players don’t have,” Katovich said. “When the game is on the line, you definitely want the ball in his hands. That is something that’s innate and can’t really be coached.”

The unselfish Christie can play the point guard position and is blessed with shot-making ability off the dribble and the catch with mid-range, pull-up jumpers and from the three-point line. As his perimeter shot becomes more efficient, his offensive game will take off.

“He just has a huge upside,” Katovich said of Christie, who just turned 17 years old this past week. “He’s going to keep getting better and better every year. I think people will be shocked to see how much better he’s gotten since even last year. The sky’s the limit.”

Just like last year’s No. 1 ranked prospect in the Class of 2022, Glenbard West’s Braden Huff, who is now at Gonzaga, Christie is vastly overlooked nationally. There is simply too much upside to ignore in a player with his skill, physical dimensions and bloodline. Christie’s older brother, Max, recently was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers after just one season at Michigan State.

Christie, though, doesn’t worry about national prestige or rankings. With recruiting out of the way, he says he can now be laser-focused going forward on everything that matters.

“It’s a huge pressure relief knowing I don’t have to wake up wondering if I’m going to visit this place or text back this coach or call this one,” Christie said. “There is only one coach and staff I now have to answer to. I am super excited to be able to focus on one school. And it lets me focus on being in the moment and focus on the high school season and getting better and preparing myself for the next level.”

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