By Boo Buie | As told to Austin Siegel

A few weeks ago, John Shurna called me before our game against Michigan.

I was closing in on his record as Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer and he wanted to offer me an early congratulations. Then, he told me “This is what Billy McKinney did for me when I broke his record. And now, I want to do the same thing for you.”

It got me thinking about how when the day comes and someone breaks my scoring record, I know I’m going to make the same phone call. That’s how much this place means to me.

When I announced I was coming back to Northwestern this season, I gathered the team together and told them the night before it went public. I told them that I’m coming back here for one reason – because I want to help Northwestern make another push.

And I hope that’s what we did this season – take things that have been very unexpected at Northwestern and make them the standard. An NCAA Tournament invite. A top-four finish in the Big Ten. Beating the number-one team in the country on our home floor.

But even when we’ve had some very high-quality wins, I feel like people still don’t give Northwestern very much respect. It feels like sometimes they act like we won all these games by accident.

And the funny thing is, that’s nothing new for me.


When I was still in high school, my AAU team, Mass Rivals, were at a tournament in California and we played this team with a bunch of guys who are now in the NBA.

I knew that most of the scouts weren’t there to watch me, but one of the coaches at the game was a Northwestern assistant coach and honestly, I thought I played pretty well.

But I didn’t hear anything until a week after the tournament and it was Coach Collins.

He was like “Hey, I’m traveling right now with my family. But I hope you know how urgent this is. I usually don’t work at all when I’m on vacation, but I wanted to call you and let you know that we were really impressed with your game.”

“We want to offer you a scholarship to come play at Northwestern.”

At that point, that was only my second scholarship. I had another one from Vermont, but that was my first like “wow” scholarship. And nobody had offered me in a long time.

Because of my brother Talor, I grew up watching Big Ten basketball. The Big Ten Network even found a video from when I was a kid at Penn State’s Senior Night in 2011. I’m in the tunnel at the arena, watching Talor and dribbling a basketball between my legs. So, I knew what it was like play college basketball in the Big Ten. I wanted to be on that stage.


But when I first came to Evanston as a freshman, they were still finishing up the renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena. I never got to see it on my visit, and we practiced for a few months at this student gym over on Foster right next to campus. I didn’t actually see Welsh-Ryan for the first time until we took a tour before the season, and again, I was just like “wow.”

And then, in my first game at Northwestern, we lost to Merrimack College.

I think my maturity and composure have grown a lot since then. I think I’m more aware and have a deeper understanding of the things that we’re trying to accomplish. I take those things very seriously.

During my junior season, we missed out on March Madness again and got blown out by Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Then, before the next season started, we had a couple of coaches and players – guys who had been in leadership roles – leave the program.

I knew I had to step up.

I’ll never forget this conversation before the season, when Coach Collins told Chase Audige, Robbie Beran and me, “Look, if this team is going to do anything special, it’s going to come down to you three guys and your leadership.”

I really wanted to change the narrative from my first three seasons at Northwestern.

So, when we blew out that same Iowa team at Welsh-Ryan Arena to get to 20 wins, I had this quote in the postgame press conference where I said, you know, “this isn’t a joke.”

I just felt the need to remind everyone that this is a serious basketball team and every time we step on the court, we expect to win. Like I said, this didn’t happen by accident.

I remember getting to the hotel in Sacramento last year for the NCAA Tournament. I was super excited and proud of myself and my teammates. I was thinking to myself, we really did it and this is what it looks like. They gave us a little bit of time on the court when we got to the arena, so I just looked around and saw all the March Madness stuff.

And once you get there, you don’t want to do anything else but make it back.

That brings me to last spring. when I had a decision to make about my future at Northwestern. I was still spending a lot of time with my teammates and coming to the gym all the time, working out and playing pickup together. I did that because I knew, if I decided to come back, I didn’t want to lose that connection and sense of togetherness with the guys.

Coach Collins told me to take things slowly and don’t make a decision too fast. Just take your time. He honestly gave me space, so that if I came back, it would be because my heart was truly still in it. And you know what?

My heart was still here, and I had some unfinished business I wanted to handle.



But that’s why this season has been so important me – when you make the NCAA Tournament once, people will say it’s a nice story.

But for me and my teammates to become the first Northwestern basketball players to ever do it twice? In back-to-back seasons? That’s how you start to become undeniable.

Honestly, I thought it was going to be a lot easier. Especially today, when you’re a kid, it’s easy to watch these great players on TV, go outside and make a couple shots in the driveway and think that you’re ready for whatever the future holds. But it’s all about consistency.

Take this season. We were starting to hit our stride in the Big Ten and then what happens? Ty Berry goes down for the season. A few games later, Matt Nicholson gets hurt and then Ryan Langborg. Suddenly, we’re missing three starters for some big games down the stretch.

I think there are plenty of basketball programs that wouldn’t have been able to weather that storm. But this is a special group, and we were ready. I came back to Northwestern for moments like that and to be the guy who helps my teammates push through that adversity.

And now we’re back in the NCAA Tournament, where anything can happen.



I think we only made it this far because we got through those moments when you just have to keep grinding. No matter how many good games you have, there’s always going to be times when you’re struggling or something in your life isn’t going well. But that’s also when you start to appreciate the people you have in your corner.

I’ve been with my fiancé now for eight years and we just got engaged. A few months ago, we were going out to dinner, but I told her that I forgot my wallet at our practice gym.

And then I started walking into Welsh-Ryan and she was like “What are you doing? We have a reservation.” I think at that point she knew what was about to happen.

Our camera guy, Albert, was up in the corner and he was like “Hey, do you guys want to watch the hype video we’re going to play before every home game this season?”

And so, this video starts playing on the scoreboard and it’s actually like a few seconds of highlights. And then, it changed into pictures of us from when we first started dating.

And then it just said, “Will You Marry Me?”

She’s been with me during this important time in my life when I’ve been focused on so many things that I want to accomplish. When we first started dating, I just wanted a scholarship to a D1 basketball program. And then, it became about actually playing at a D1 basketball program, then being an important part of the team and becoming a leader.

Now, I’m about to pursue my professional basketball career and she’s been my rock through all of this. She’s just my biggest supporter alongside my mom and my brothers.

My friends, family and coaches have motivated me and pushed me my entire life.

When I got to college, Coach Collins and his staff helped me reach a higher level. And ever since I was a kid, my mom and brothers helped me find the motivation to keep grinding.



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It’s been crazy walking around Evanston this season. When I first got here, nobody knew who I was. And now, when I go out into the community, I see the excitement. And I feel it when I spend time with some of the groups that I’ve been able to help support with TrueNU.

Every time I get to spend time working with those kids, it just brings me back to when I was that age and watching my brother from the tunnel at Penn State.

When you love basketball as a kid, you don’t feel any of the pressure or the stress. But if anyone from the next generation is reading this, I hope you continue to do it for the love of the game.

I know I’m going to make that phone call one day, to the Northwestern basketball player who breaks my record. Or makes the Final Four. Or wins a national championship.

And I hope that kid is reading this. Because I would tell him whether you’re getting good results or bad results, just give it all you got. Be in love with the grind no matter what.


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