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If Cam Christie walks across the stage to shake the NBA commissioner's hand after being selected in this week's draft, that would be a big moment for the Gophers men's basketball program.

The Gophers guard could be the program's first player drafted after his freshman season and also the first picked in the first round of the NBA draft since former Hopkins star Kris Humphries in 2004.

Christie, a 6-6 Illinois native, is projected as a late first-rounder or early second-rounder in the 2024 NBA draft scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in New York. Christie and his family are expected to be in attendance for both rounds.

"Hoping Cam can get in that first round," said Gophers coach Ben Johnson, who was Humphries' U teammate in 2003-04. "The expectations are if you come to Minnesota, you can be an NBA player."

Humphries, a former McDonald's All-America, was the last U player to be drafted in the first round, going 14th overall to the Utah Jazz in 2004. Former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Daniel Oturu ended a lengthy draft drought by the Gophers in 2020 when the Timberwolves picked him 33rd — the third pick in the second round —and traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Christie, a former four-star recruit, was ranked just outside the top 100 by several recruiting services when the Gophers signed him in the Class of 2023. He finished second on the team in scoring (11.3) and shot 42% from three-point range to earn All-Big Ten freshman honors, a first for the U since 2017.

"I think it means we identified talent at an early stage," Johnson said. "We were able to develop that talent. He was able to take the opportunity here and seize it."

No other Big Ten freshman remained in the NBA draft this year. Christie is rated among the top prospects from the conference with Indiana's Kel'el Ware, Purdue's Zach Edey and Illinois' Terrence Shannon Jr.

Having Christie drafted after one year in the program means "there's a lot to sell" in recruiting moving forward, Johnson said. Four-star 2025 IMG Academy (Fla.) guard Amari Allen, who visited the U unofficially last Monday, was told by Johnson's staff that he could become the next talent to develop quickly into a pro player.

"[Christie's] really set the bar not only for what we want in recruiting but also what we want in development," Johnson said.

Dealing with illness in the preseason, Christie missed the Gophers' season opener vs. Bethune Cookman. But he had 18 points on 4-for-6 shooting from three-point range in his first game vs. Texas Arlington. It was the highest-scoring true freshman debut for the Gophers since Humphries in 2003-04.

While gaining strength and improving his defense, Christie came off the bench for the first seven games. By late January, though, Christie scored in double figures in nine of 10 games, including a career-high 23 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting at Illinois.

The Gophers didn't make the NCAA tournament, but they reached the NIT second round to win 19 games. Christie gave an "A" grade for his freshman season.

"I think it was a successful year," Christie told the Big Ten Network at the NBA combine. "I thought I performed well. I thought the team performed well. We exceeded a lot of expectations."

A late hot stretch had Christie strongly considering the path his older brother, Max, took by leaving Michigan State for the NBA after a year to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022.

Being 18, Christie arguably has higher potential than some older and established college players, making him an intriguing talent in this week's draft.

"I told him straight up, 'If you have the opportunity, I'm not a coach who is going to hold any of our guys back,' " Johnson said. "You watch some of the [plays] as a freshman he made and his progression, it doesn't surprise me especially with this draft that people are looking at him."