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Flex Time

All-time leading scorer Boo Buie helped usher in a golden era for Northwestern basketball.

Basketball player Boo Buie, in a white Northwestern jersey with the number 0, flexes during a game.
Northwestern point guard Boo BuieImage: Griffin Quinn/Northwestern Athletics

By Sean Hargadon
Spring 2024
2 Responses

For Boo Buie, it all comes back to family.

Growing up in Albany, N.Y., he learned to play basketball from his older brothers and mastered his floater to avoid getting rejected at the rim. His brother Talor Battle, 11 years his senior, became the all-time leading scorer at Penn State and is now a Northwestern basketball assistant coach — and Buie’s toughest critic. And the Wildcat guard’s favorite tattoo, among many on his left arm, features his mother’s initials alongside a lion and a rose because, he says, she’s sweet but also incredibly strong, having raised nine children.

At Northwestern, Buie has found a second home. “From the time they recruited me, it was a family environment,” he says. “I didn’t have many scholarships coming out of high school. Northwestern’s coaches were the first ones who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to even be Boo Buie, to accomplish anything. [Head] coach Chris Collins and the staff, from day one, had full trust in me.

“And once I got here, I capitalized on the opportunity.”

In fact, Buie has become the face of Northwestern basketball, helping to usher in a golden era for the program. In 2023–24 Buie was a unanimous selection for the All-Big Ten first team, earning every vote from both media and coaches, as he led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and only the third time in program history. He’s helped make Northwestern a regular in the national college basketball conversation.

In a moment that highlighted his significance to the program, Buie became Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer in a 76-62 win over Michigan at Welsh-Ryan Arena in February, surpassing the career mark held by John Shurna ’12 for nearly a dozen years. 

“We’ve had some great, great players in the history of the program,” says Collins, the Sullivan-Ubben Head Coach, “but Boo stands alone … in terms of winning.” Buie has been a part of 76 wins during his five-year tenure.

It wasn’t always easy. The team won just 17 of 38 games combined in Buie’s first two seasons. He faced a lot of self-doubt and questions from critics outside of the program, but he remained focused and committed. The team improved to 15-16 in 2021–22, Buie’s third season. 

In 2022–23 Buie led Northwestern to a signature victory over No. 1–ranked Purdue. “It was a huge turning point in the history of our program and how people viewed us,” says Buie. “People respect us a little more. And that’s the whole goal of what Coach Collins and I have been trying to do — to get us on a winning trajectory.”

Buie, who had a team-high 26 points in that win over Purdue, has a penchant for dramatic moments and heroic, game-on-the-line shots. Handling pressure, especially late in the game, comes from consistent practice, he says. “They say, ‘Reps heal doubt.’ And in those moments where you may doubt yourself … instead of thinking, ‘Oh wow, I’m the one with the ball, and all the pressure is on me,’ think, ‘Hey, I have the ball, and everybody around me believes that I’m going to make something good happen.’ Shots don’t always go in late in the game, but I always feel confident when I have the ball in those situations. … I want people to remember me for always having self-confidence, for going out there to prove the world wrong.”

After he broke the career scoring record last February, Buie soaked in the moment near the end of the game. His head coach embraced him as the crowd roared. “When I first got here [as a freshman], you could see so many open seats in the stands,” Buie said after the game.  “Now, [I’m] walking off the court to a whole stadium standing on their feet, clapping for me and my teammates. That’s what I’m most proud about, the change [my teammates and I] brought to the program.”

Collins, the Wildcats’ 11th-year head coach, says he feels lucky to be a small part of Buie’s journey. “Boo is like family to me. His growth as a young man, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend — it’s been unbelievable.”

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Reader Responses

  • I am sure my pledge father, Jim Burns '67, '71 JD, is watching with enthusiasm as Boo has led this surge in NU basketball. Jim was great in the 1960s with some very good teams. Sorry that Jim recently passed away without witnessing in person the exceptional recent season.

    John Gleason Jr. '68, Scottsdale, Ariz., via Northwestern Magazine

  • A great story for a great basketball player. I remember him as a frosh. He was a great shooter but only an average player. As he developed his passing and decision-making, he became one of the best college point guards I've ever seen. He grew as a basketball player but more importantly as a leader and role model.

    Tom Feiman '63 MBA, Studio City, Calif., via Northwestern Magazine

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