‘Being a shooter is who I am’: Malcolm Christie’s basketball journey

Still of Malcolm Christie, playing for the Dalhousie Tigers Men's Basketball Team. (Submitted: Dalhousie Athletics)

Basketball is in Malcolm Christie’s blood. The former Fredericton High School standout is making his mark in his third year with the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s basketball team.

His mom, Laura Swift, was a CIAU – now U SPORTS – First Team All-Canadian for the UNB Varsity Reds in 1993-94 and played professionally in Luxembourg the following year. 

But while it may seem that basketball was the obvious choice for the 6’5” guard, the sport he first found success in was running.

“To be honest, when I was younger, I was a lot better at track.”

In middle school, though, basketball caught on. By Grade 10, Christie realized playing the sport beyond high school might be possible.

“I’ve always really, really enjoyed [basketball].”

Christie was a part of New Brunswick’s bronze medal team at the 2019 17U Boys National Championships at UNB’s Currie Center in Fredericton.

“Nationals in Fredericton … were awesome. And I don’t think we really realized how good we were until we got there and started playing teams.”

Just months after winning a national bronze medal, Christie led the FHS Black Kats to a provincial banner. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic took away the Black Kats chance to repeat and another opportunity for Christie to represent N.B. in the annual national 17U tournament.

With school sports canceled and university visits banned, Christie dug in, making the best of the circumstances.

“It was almost like therapy with everything that was going on,” said Christie. “I’d wake up in the morning and go to the gym.”

University teams came knocking, including the 17-time national champion Carleton Ravens. But with only virtual campus tours allowed, getting a feel for the schools and the basketball programs wasn’t easy. With family in Halifax and a newfound friend in fellow-NBer Sam Maillet, Dalhousie was a “perfect fit.”

“I really am happy with my choice, I’ve really loved it.”

In his second year with the Tigers, Christie averaged 14.8 points, three rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, all while making three-pointers at 43.5 per cent, a rate almost unheard of at the volume he shoots at.

This jump came only a season after averaging just 12.3 minutes per game. In his rookie year, the Tigers’ roster boasted two All-Canadian guards in Keevan Veinot and Alex Carson, not leaving a lot of opportunity for Christie.

“From a basketball perspective, [Veinot and Carson] really taught me a lot … I really think that jump from my first year to second year was massive, and it was because of those guys.”

With a second U SPORTS season under his belt, Christie was invited to training camp with the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Scarborough Shooting Stars.

“I felt like I was a sponge. I was trying to get in the gym as much as I could with these guys, see how they worked out, watch how they scored.”

Though he didn’t get to play in any official games, he stayed in Toronto for most of the summer, practicing with the team and sharing the court with NBA-experienced players like Cat Barber and Jalen Harris.

“Scarborough was really good to me … It was an unbelievable learning experience being around those guys.”

He credits Tigers assistant coach Murphy Burnatowski with the opportunity.

“Murph is an awesome guy. I’ve never had someone that tapped in for basketball in Canada.”

Burnatowski, who has played three seasons in the CEBL himself, has also played professionally in seemingly every corner of the planet, including Vietnam, Poland, and Switzerland. In the 2017 FIBA Americup, he suited up for Team Canada, something Christie is “shooting for.”

“It would be amazing to wear a Canada jersey with Christie on the back.”

Christie tried out for Canada’s U23 Men’s National Team, which played at GLOBL JAM in July. Even though he didn’t make the final roster, he describes it as an “unbelievable experience” and will be vying for a spot in the next two seasons, while he’s still eligible.

“I think if I keep playing the way I do and I keep working and I keep developing, getting my name out there, I don’t think that’s an outlandish goal.”

Back in Halifax, Christie is preparing for another season with Dalhousie. With two preseason performances where he scored more than 40 points, the target is high for the sharpshooter from Fredericton.

“I just want to see how far I can go, and where basketball can take me, because it’s done some pretty amazing things for me so far and I’d like to keep riding that wave.”