Meadows' Christie close to returning, but not yet

 
 
Updated 1/30/2019 1:45 PM
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  • Rolling Meadows' Max Christie, right, tries to strip the ball away from Hersey's Matt Hanushewsky during a game last season. Christie, one of the top sophomore recruits in the country, has been out of action for three weeks with a deep thigh bruise and is not expected back until at least Feb. 8.

      Rolling Meadows' Max Christie, right, tries to strip the ball away from Hersey's Matt Hanushewsky during a game last season. Christie, one of the top sophomore recruits in the country, has been out of action for three weeks with a deep thigh bruise and is not expected back until at least Feb. 8. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Not yet.

Max Christie is getting closer. But the superstar sophomore forward from Rolling Meadows is not yet quite ready to return to action, which is bad news for basketball fans all over the Northwest suburbs.

They've been deprived of seeing one of the best young players in the nation for three weeks now.

In early January, Christie, ranked one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021, suffered a deep thigh bruise injury in practice that has turned out to be more serious than first diagnosed. He is going through therapy and rehab every day, but is still not quite ready to go full-speed on the hardwood.

Rolling Meadows head coach Kevin Katovich is hopeful that Christie will be ready by the end of next week. A Mid-Suburban League East game at Wheeling on Feb. 8 is the targeted return date.

"I'd say it's a 50/50 chance," Katovich said. "If we can continue to get him healthy this week and then get him practicing next week, I'm thinking maybe next Friday we could get him back."

The length of Christie's rehab has caught everyone by surprise, including Christie himself.

"He's definitely frustrated," Katovich said. "At first, we thought he'd need a few days off. Then it kind of got worse and he had an MRI and it just confirmed that this is a really deep bruise.

"His doctor was saying that sometimes these things can take a week, and sometimes they can take six weeks."

On Monday, Christie, who is rehabbing religiously before school and after school, was cleared to do some basic basketball drills, including shooting.

"He's still gimping around when he tries to run though," Katovich said. "He's doing everything he needs to do in rehab, but he's still going to need a little more time. It's a matter of him getting his strength and flexibility back."

Holding down the fort: It hasn't been easy, but Rolling Meadows is getting a little better each day at adjusting to life without injured star Max Christie.

He's been out three weeks with a deep thigh bruise and the Mustangs lost their next three games before finally getting a victory against Elk Grove.

Rolling Meadows has gone from 10-5 pre-injury to now 11-8.

"The day after Max got hurt, we had to play Prospect right away and we just had no time to prepare," Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said. "Then we were a little better against Hersey and Maine West, but both were losses."

The Mustangs finally got their first victory without Christie last weekend against Elk Grove.

"I'm really proud of our guys and how they've kept at it," said Katovich, who pointed specifically at the efforts of junior guard Jonah Ogunsanya.

Ogunsanya came off the bench against Elk Grove and had a season-high 19 points and 5 rebounds.

"Jonah just moved in so he is still learning what we are trying to do," Katovich said. "But he's definitely gifted and skilled. He's had a few nice games in a row for us."

Five alive: Winning five games in a row is about more than good basketball.

It's about mental fortitude, and a certain attitude.

Before losing back-to-back games last weekend against Prospect and Fenwick, Hersey was hitting on all cylinders with a 5-game winning streak, its longest of the season.

"I think the biggest thing working for us (during the streak) was that our senior leadership was at an all-time high," said Hersey coach Austin Scott, whose team is 11-10 on the season. "At one point, we had won three games in one week. That's hard to do, and it takes a lot of people in the right (mental) place and a lot of people playing different roles."

Senior forward Jacob Kluczewski played the role of emotional leader perfectly.

"Jacob is just a magnetic, contagious personality and he gets so passionate and fired up and that helps the other guys," Scott said. "He wears his emotion and passion on his sleeve, and he did a great job of being the emotional leader we needed in big wins over Buffalo Grove, Barrington and Grayslake Central."

Answering the call: Senior Jason Coffaro didn't mess around.

The Hersey senior guard got his first start of the season last weekend against Fenwick and made good on it.

Really good -- to the tune of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 6 steals.

"He responded really well," Hersey coach Austin Scott said. "I'm always telling the guys on the bench, 'Give me a reason to leave you in there,' and Jace did just that.

"When you're looking for someone to respond to an opportunity, Jace was the hallmark of that. He plays with so much passion and intensity anyway, like every possession is his last possession and he did that as a starter against Fenwick."

Not only did Coffaro give Hersey some unexpected offense, he gave the Huskies his usually stellar defense. He was assigned Fenwick star forward Bryce Hopkins, one of the most highly sought-after sophomores in the state.

"Jace did a very good job on Hopkins and made him work for everything he got," Scott said of Coffaro. "Jace is known for his defense. He's so flexible defensively because he can guard any position, and he's tough too. He leads our team in charges taken. He just had a good game all the way around for us against Fenwick."

Spark, spark: Maine West used a 24-1 run to get a win over Rolling Meadows earlier this month.

Just like Lucas Glaister was a spark during that stretch, Maine West coach Tom Prokopij figures Glaister will be a spark for the rest of the season.

Glaister, a senior guard for the Warriors, missed the first 11 games of the season and has now been cleared to play.

"He has been a shot in the arm for us," Prokopij said. "He had been practicing with us and doing very well, and as soon as he was allowed to play, we put him immediately into the starting lineup because we knew he could do a lot for us."

Glaister gives Maine West a second point guard on the floor in addition to senior starter Justin Scholler.

In Maine West's most recent game, a 68-60 win over Collins, Scholler was freed up from some of his typical point guard duties with Glaister on the floor and he poured in 31 points.

"Having Lucas out there definitely lessens the burden on Justin," Prokopij said. "Justin is able to catch and shoot and do more offensively. And to have two point guards and two playmakers on the floor at the same time just helps everyone."

Big decisions: It's basketball season, but Schaumburg senior Heze Trotter has been thinking about football a lot lately.

The star wide receiver for the Saxons committed to Division II Missouri Western last weekend.

But Trotter has still managed to be focused enough on basketball to help Schaumburg put together a 16-5 record and nab a spot as one of the top teams in the Mid-Suburban League.

He's averaging around 16 points per game.

"Every day in practice, Heze is our motor," Saxons coach Wade Heisler said. "He is vocal, he doesn't take possessions off. He sets a great example for the rest of our team. The energy and production that Heze gives us on the court is so solid and he is so good with our younger players. He shows them all about what it takes at this level."

Trotter would know about some of the challenges younger players face on the varsity.

He's been a starter on the varsity since his freshman year.

"Heze has always had this athleticism," Heisler said. "But he has just had this confidence from a young age that you don't see very often in kids that age. We knew he could help us push our program in the direction we wanted it to go."

More than 3: Schaumburg is known for its big 3, as in Heze Trotter, and brothers Michael and Chris Hodges.

Between them, the trio is averaging nearly 50 points per game.

But the 16-5 Saxons are much more than that.

"We're not just the Big 3," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said. "The reason we're doing well is that we are getting a lot of contributions from other kids."

Jared Schoo and Shamaree Brown have been standing out lately for the Saxons. Schoo brings good defense and Brown has been not only defending and rebounding but scoring more lately.

"Jared is one of our top defenders," Heisler said. "And Shamaree has been scoring a lot of key buckets for us."

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