Men’s Basketball Notebook: NU brings in a top recruit for 2019 preseason scrimmage


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Boo Buie dribbles past Ryan Greer. The two guards are competing for playing time at point guard.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Most open preseason scrimmages aren’t that important –– that’s why Kansas invited Snoop Dogg to Allen Fieldhouse to make things interesting. But Northwestern’s was a day that could end up as a turning point for the program.

Five-star shooting guard Max Christie made his second visit to Evanston to watch the scrimmage, and it seemed to go really well for the Wildcats. The top-15 recruit in the 2021 high school class sat next to coach Chris Collins and four-star forward Bryce Hopkins throughout, as they spent the time laughing and analyzing the game.

Even though he’s being recruited by Duke, Villanova and Michigan, Christie said he’s giving serious consideration to NU.

“Wherever I’m comfortable with is where I’ll pay attention to,” Christie told The Daily. “I’m not looking at all the blue blood schools just because I’m a five star, or whatever you want to call it… It’s not like I’m embarrassed to come here because I’m a five star.”

Christie, who lives in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, has strong ties to the Cats’ program. His mom played on the women’s basketball team and has taken Christie to several men’s games at the old Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Collins and assistant coach Emanuel Dildy are leading Christie’s recruitment, and Christie said they’re stressing his potential fit next to sophomore forwards Pete Nance and Miller Kopp. Christie added he’s excited about NU’s young core and the coaches are in constant communication with him as they try to make him the top rated recruit to ever sign with the Cats.

“I’ve been around here since I was really young, and it’s always good to be back,” he said. “With the new arena and everything, I want to take everything in.”

The purple-white scrimmage was “projective”

The scrimmage was clearly an appetizer to Friday’s football game against Ohio State. In order to accommodate the football team’s weekly “Walk with Us” through Welsh-Ryan, the purple-white scrimmage ended in a 32-32 tie. Assistant coach Brian James, hoping to call an out-of-bounds play late in the game, was told he had to “hurry up” when he unsuccessfully tried to call a time-out with less than a minute to go.

With the players in a rush, no one scored in the last minute. Junior guard Anthony Gaines missed a contested layup that could have won the game at the buzzer.

Gaines led the white team, which had guards Ryan Greer and Pat Spencer and bigs Nance and Jared Jones. They played against a lineup comprised of freshman Boo Buie at the point, A.J. Turner and Miller Kopp on the wing and Robbie Beran and Ryan Young in the frontcourt.

“It was pretty projective,” said Bryant McIntosh, the assistant director of basketball operations who coached the white team Friday. “We get to see when the lights are on what we have and the things we need to work on.”

Boo Buie is better than advertised

The last freshman point guard to be a consistent scorer for NU was McIntosh. He’s a coach now –– it’s been that long.

NU couldn’t replace McItnosh’s production in its first year without him in the fold, but Buie already looks like a competent solution to the Cats’ scoring woes from last season. He had a game-high 13 points, hitting shots from everywhere and playing at an up-tempo pace.

Buie played with Kopp and Turner, two of the team’s most talented returning scorers. But Buie set the tone for the offense, running several high pick-and-roll and scoring from all three levels. He started the game with a ceiling-scraping floater,made three 3-point shots off the dribble and looks like the best long-distance shooter on the roster.

Buie appears to be ahead of Greer in the rotation, as the sophomore guard was hit-or-miss from the field. He’s less dangerous than Buie off the drive and fumbled multiple pass attempts to Jones on the pick-and-roll.

Greer finished with six points and was clearly more aggressive offensively than he was last year. He had a few creative finishes at the rim, hitting contested spinning laups and an underhand scoop shot, but Greer missed a floater off the drive on his team’s second-to-last possession.

Pete Nance is ready for his moment

Nance returned for the stretch run of last season after missing eight games with mono, but he said he never felt like himself in the final five games he played. Nance was back to full strength for the offseason, and the results of his hard work showed. Nance walked onto the floor looking twice as strong as he did last season –– the recently graduated Vic Law complimented him on it –– and he finished with eight points.

Nance hit two threes and a post fadeaway, and he also attempted a few mid-range shots off the dribble. His team gave him the ball on a few pivotal possessions down the stretch, and he made good reads off the drive to find Greer and Gaines open on the other side of the court. He was as aggressive as the coaches hoped he would become for his sophomore season.

Jared Jones shows his versatility

The biggest uncertainty regarding the season’s rotation is how Collins works out his big man rotation between traditional fives in Jones and Young and a small-ball option in Nance. While Nance is the best shot blocker and Young is the best rebounder, Jones showed that he can do a little bit of everything.

The freshman from Georgia finished with seven points, doing his most damage below the rim as a target for driving guards looking to pass. He showed good touch finishing through contact, though Collins gave Jones a hard time for missing a contested layup that would have given his team a late lead.

None of this was unexpected. Jones came into Evanston with a reputation as an elite athlete who would defend physically in the post and make easy baskets on offense. But early in the game he surprised the crowd by taking a three-point shot, and Welsh-Ryan cheered louder than they had all game.

Jones made his first attempt from distance and took three shots from beyond the arc. His final two attempts drew the attention of defense, who closed out on Jones like he’s been draining threes in practice all season.

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