Minnesota’s Christie could be headed for Big Ten freshman of year award

Cam Christie smiled when asked how competitive he is with older brother Max.

After wrapping up his first college regular season for Minnesota on Saturday at Northwestern, Cam can say he has the upper hand on his brother when it comes to freshman stats.

Cam, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and shot 40.3% from 3-point range for the Gophers. During his lone season at Michigan State in 2021-22, Max averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and shot 31.7% from 3.

“I'd say it's super competitive,” Cam said. “Whether I say it or not, I definitely use stuff like that as little motivators for myself. At the end of the day, he's happy to see me succeed and see that I'm doing really well in college, so it's really nice.”

Cam Christie is probably the favorite to win Big Ten freshman of the year. Max made the Big Ten all-freshman team, but lost out on freshman of the year to Ohio State's Malaki Branham.

Ultimately, there's room for both Christie brothers to excel in the sport, but this performance is interesting because Cam had lower expectations coming out of Rolling Meadows High School.

Among the four main recruiting services, Max was ranked the No. 18 national prospect in the Class of '21 by ESPN, No. 18 by On3, No. 22 by 247sports and No. 21 by Rivals.

By those same four services, Cam was unranked by ESPN, then Nos. 121, 84 and 150 by the other three.

Max, also a 6-6 guard, left school after one year, was a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers and has appeared in 51 games this season. Max's playing time has varied, usually based on the Lakers' injury situation. He's started seven games and gone through weeks without playing, but has earned a reputation for being a plus-defender.

“Probably every day we talk,” Cam said. “(He tells me) you can't get too high, can't get too low; always remain confident in yourself because you just have to believe in yourself and believe in the work you've put in.”

Freshman of the year will be announced this week during the Big Ten tournament, which is being held in Minneapolis at the Target Center. Cam Christie's top competition is likely Iowa's Owen Freeman.

“Obviously, it would mean a lot,” Christie said. “It would be really rewarding to see people recognize all my hard work. But I'm not going to base my season on whether I get that award or not.”

The Golden Gophers (18-13, 9-11) have been a pleasant surprise this year and could be headed for the NIT if they don't win the Big Ten tourney.

“It's been a really good experience, everything I hoped it would be,” Christie said of his freshman year. “I think I've gotten better with each and every game, but every game's a learning experience.”

Saturday's game was special because Christie's mother. Katrina Hannaford, was an all-Big Ten player for Northwestern.

“It was super cool to be able to get here,” he said. “My family was able to come and watch. It was a great experience.”

The Gophers were ambushed by the Wildcats on Saturday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Michigan State won at Northwestern during Max's freshman year. So college hoops remains a close competition between the brothers.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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