As fans stormed the court after Northwestern’s historic win over the No. 1 ranked Purdue, Daniel “Boo” Buie soaked in the moment four years in the making.
“That was the first time the court had ever been stormed in my career,” Buie says. “I wish every game could get stormed like that. That environment was sick.”
Buie, who announced in early May he will be returning to Northwestern for a fifth year, was instrumental to one of the Wildcats’ best basketball seasons in school history. The SESP fourth-year from Albany, New York averaged a career high in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage during the 2022-23 season.
Expectations were low for the Wildcats coming into this winter. CBS Sports and ESPN’s experts predicted Northwestern would finish 12th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten Conference. This was largely in response to Pete Nance and Ryan Young — two of the team’s top scorers last season — transferring to North Carolina and Duke, respectively. For Buie, leaving Northwestern was never in the cards.
“Coach [Chris] Collins and the staff talked about being a part of a rebuild and being something special,” Buie says. “They saw how I could help this program get back to the tournament, so I felt like I owed it to them to come and give it four years, giving them my all.”
Northwestern was the only school in one of the five major college conferences to make an offer to Buie, making his decision to return for his senior season a no-brainer.
“I’m a big loyalty guy,” Buie says. “I’ve always been big on trust, and it’s not always greener on the other side. So sometimes you just got to jump over obstacles and figure it out to create your own path.”
"Sometimes you just got to jump over obstacles and figure it out to create your own path ."Boo Buie
Buie did just that. He has a close bond with senior teammate Robbie Beran, who recently transferred to play at Virginia Tech with his final year of college eligibility. Beran and Buie became close friends during their freshman year, and both expressed how important it was to them to build something special at Northwestern.
“Boo and I were always on the same mental,” Beran says. “Boo is my brother for life.”
Beran says he and Buie clicked early on. From the very first practice, Beran could see how talented Buie was. The two went through tough times together, losing a lot of close games in their first three seasons. But heading into their senior year, Beran and Buie did not let their past losses get to them. Beran says the team never got too high or too low and just stayed the course. He largely credits Buie’s steadiness for Northwestern’s turnaround season.
The pair lived together junior year and often played video games or Monopoly in between class and practice. The senior duo has come a long way, and Beran says he is incredibly grateful for their bond.
“It’s weird how Coach [Collins] randomly selected a kid from Albany and a kid from Richmond and four years later — boom: That’s buddy, bro,” Beran says.
With Nance and Young gone, Buie, Beran, guard Chase Audige and forward Tydus Verhoeven were the elder statesmen for the Wildcats. This year, Northwestern focused on rebuilding, with second-year guards like Brooks Barnhizer and Julian Roper II featured as key parts of the team’s lineup. Third-year center Matthew Nicholson, who played very little his first two seasons in Evanston, slid into the starting lineup as well.
The team had a meeting over the summer once everyone got on campus, and Buie was impressed by how quickly they connected.
“It was a really heartfelt meeting,” Buie says. “I was like ‘Wow, we haven’t even practiced together.’”
That initial meeting set a tone for the team. From then on, Buie says the group was open-minded and incredibly honest. With players listening and holding each other accountable, the team could connect off the court, unlike previous seasons.
“In past years, I felt like there were a lot of cliques on the team between classes,” Buie says.
The Wildcats made team-bonding trips to local restaurants and bowling alleys. While the team has hung out like this in past seasons, Buie says it happened more often this year.
Photo by Tyler Keim
From Albany to Evanston
A big reason for Buie’s star season was a key addition to the coaching staff. Talor Battle, Buie’s half-brother, joined him on the Northwestern bench as an assistant coach. Battle — who played for Pennsylvania State University from 2007-2011 — brought experience and a personal connection, which helped unlock Buie’s game.
Battle is 11 years older than Buie and the third eldest of ten. Buie and his siblings grew up in a small, inner-city house in Albany. Battle was the first person in his family to graduate from college and says it was important to him to set an example for his younger siblings, adding that their upbringing was certainly not “peaches and cream.”
“It wasn’t always great, but the one thing we could always get to was a basketball,” Battle says. “Basketball was an escape for all of us. It was something we always had to keep us out of trouble and could use to try to change our lives.”
Battle remembers Buie shooting his diapers in the trash and rolling up socks and throwing them in the laundry basket. Battle says all of Buie’s older brothers toughened him up over the years, making him the player he is today.
When Battle got to Northwestern, he easily identified what Buie needed to work on. As someone who has watched Buie play his whole life, Battle knew he needed to get stronger so he could play off two feet, improve his finishing around the rim and become a stronger defender.
Battle says Buie made life easier on the coaches this season. Buie became a natural leader, and his growth and maturity off the court were reflected during games, Battle says.
“I don’t want to take any credit for that,” Battle says. “That was all him. He grew up and matured.”
Instead of getting on a group FaceTime call like many families do to catch up, the Buies play video games. With headphones and a microphone set up, the brothers chat while playing Fortnite and some of their other favorite games.
“He’s probably the best out of the bunch, and he does not let us hear the end of it,” Battle says.
When asked what it was like to have his brother join the coaching staff, Buie expressed that it had its pros and cons.
“Yeah, honestly, it was quite annoying,” Buie says.
Battle understands where his brother is coming from. He nitpicks Buie’s game, holding him accountable for everything, as he’s done since they were kids.
Buie says Battle did not hold back critiquing him, something other coaches are not as willing to do. This type of accountability is what helped Buie break out in 2023. Buie says they were both “super dialed in” and all of their conversations during the season centered around what he needed to do to improve.
Beyond Battle’s success at Pennsylvania State, another of Buie’s older brothers, Taran Buie, was a high school star who went on to play college ball at Penn State and Hofstra University. Buie says he models his game after Taran and Battle.
“I remember being three years old at my brother’s basketball games and I would get in trouble because I would run on the court,” Buie says. “I remember shooting at halftime or trying to run on the court and shoot when there was a timeout.”
Photo by Tyler Keim
The support from fans, students and the media this season was new for Buie. In his first three seasons, the Wildcats only won 32 games combined, and Buie received his share of criticism. But Buie says as long as there is positivity within the coaching staff and the players, everything flows really well.
Ignoring the outside noise can be challenging for high-profile players. Athletes at the highest level have opened up about their mental health struggles and discussed how public negativity can be difficult to overcome. Buie says he used his first three seasons — and all the pessimism that came with them — as a learning experience.
“Life is imperfect, so there are always going to be challenges,” Buie says. “There are always going to be ups and downs. So going through all the downs, all the tough games and hard losses, it just built me up and gave me more character as a man on and off the court. It just made me a better player and really built my mental toughness.”
To prepare for his senior season, Buie says he sacrificed going out, video games and much of his free time to improve in the offseason. During the season, however, Buie found time at the end of the day to play Fortnite or watch his favorite show, Breaking Bad.
These moments provided a short reprieve from the grind that student-athletes like Buie face at Northwestern. For much of the season, Buie had class straight through the morning until 1:00 p.m. Once he got out of class, he would eat before heading to the gym for practice.
With the music of his favorite artist Lil Baby to hype him up, Buie would practice for nearly four hours, always making sure to get in some extra shots before hitting the showers. On most days, Buie would not leave the gym until around 7:00 p.m.
Like many athletes, Buie makes sure to maintain a healthy diet during the season. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t save room for his favorite pregame and postgame snack.
“I only eat Rice Krispies Treats, bro,” Buie says. “That’s my favorite thing. If you ask anybody on the team, they’ll tell you that all I eat is Rice Krispies Treats.”
“Not only is he a Rice Krispies fiend, he is a connoisseur,” Beran says. “He is able to tell the difference between the ones we get from the facility and the ones from Sam’s Club.”
"Life is imperfect, so there are always going to be challenges."Boo Buie
Buie will graduate this June. With his extra year of eligibility granted to college athletes because of COVID-19, Buie will get a master’s degree in his final year at Northwestern.
Northwestern’s success this season was largely due to Buie’s growth as a leader and a shot creator. Buie credits his teammates for believing in him and giving him the ball, trusting that he would make the right decision.
Barnhizer says Buie was a huge mentor and leader for him as a freshman. With Buie’s help, Barnhizer stepped into a bigger role this past season. He says Buie encouraged him to be aggressive, helping him take his game to the next level.
“He enjoyed throwing me the ball,” Barnhizer says. “He didn’t do it because he had to. He knew I could help the team and we both really wanted to win, so I feel like that’s why we got along so well this year.”
While Buie is a fierce competitor, Barnhizer says fans don’t see the “real Boo.” Barnhizer says he is chill, down-to-earth and will do anything to hang out with his teammates.
Barnhizer remembers having a conversation in the locker room with Buie after Nance and Young transferred. They discussed the upcoming season and agreed they could be a part of something really special. Sometimes, Buie’s leadership bordered on confrontational, but Barnhizer says that is what the team needed.
“I think that is why he is such a good leader,” Barnhizer says. “He just wanted to win so badly.”
Buie has high praise for Barnhizer, who strung together seven straight double-digit scoring performances toward the end of his sophomore season.
“I definitely see Brooks taking a big leap,” Buie says. “Brooks came along big time at the end of the season, and I think his confidence just really grew. He’s going to shock a lot of people if they’re not already expecting big things from him.”
Photo by Tyler Keim
Cheering with Boos
After Northwestern lost back-to-back games against Iowa and Michigan this winter, Buie says people began to count them out. The team held a players-only meeting to get things off their chest and hold each other accountable. Buie describes this as the turning point of the season, as the ‘Cats went on to win five straight games.
With each win, the excitement around Northwestern basketball grew. Students crashed ticket websites, vying for a chance to see Buie and his team play.
“Words can’t even describe the support and what the students did this year. Seeing the lines outside the door before the game — students don’t know how much it actually means to the program and to the players,” Buie says.
Buie reflects on attendance in past seasons and how the environment of Welsh-Ryan Arena this season differed from years prior.
“You’re talking to a guy who has been in the gym where there are only about 200 people total, and it’s a bunch of season ticket holders and little kids that got invited from some camp,” Buie says.
At Northwestern home games this season, fans yelled “Boo”s directed not at the refs or the opposing team but at their own star player. While to some this might be distracting, Buie says the chants never phased him. He says he knew that when he was at Welsh-Ryan Arena the “Boo”s were for him. His childhood nickname is now a celebratory chant across the Northwestern community.
As fans got more invested in the team and the crowds got rowdier, Welsh-Ryan Arena became one of the best environments in college basketball. Students cheered loudly and taunted even louder.
“The heckling to the opposing teams was awesome. I know they definitely didn’t like that chicken sandwich chant,” Buie says, referencing the Chick-fil-A free sandwich promotion for fans if the opposing team missed eight free throws.
Buie became a bit of a celebrity as the Wildcats got hot. He says fans would stop him when he walked around the Chicagoland area, thanking him for the season. A lot of fans reached out over social media to express their support.
One group in particular got Buie’s attention. Buie says he was added to an Instagram group chat of Northwestern students in early February. Buie says he did not know anyone in the group chat and the messaging primarily consisted of Instagram reels. He says he tried to leave the group chat, but the fans were persistent, adding him back a couple of days later.
Buie says the group began to send memes related to Northwestern basketball. Once he finally started reading them, he thought they were quite funny.
“That shit was hilarious, bro,” Buie says. “That was the biggest support I had all year.”
Buie’s stellar season helped Northwestern reach the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history. For most people, playing in March Madness would come with some added pressure, but Buie says all the hardship from his previous years had prepared him for the moment.
“I knew I was going to have to up my playing standards, but I relied on my work and trusted in myself and I knew everything was going to be good,” Buie says.
Northwestern entered halftime down 10 in their second-round matchup against UCLA. The Wildcats came out on fire to start the second half. Buie says there was not a big halftime speech to spark the run but that the “win or go home” mindset pushed them to fight back. While the comeback fell short, Buie says one of the goals of the season was to make everyone proud, and he thinks they did that in the second half. That did not mean the loss stung any less.
“We were sad because we knew it was really over and this team was never going to play together again,” Buie says.
While Buie still has one year left, he credits his teammates, coaches and family for his success thus far. He promised to come to Northwestern and give it his all, and he has lived up to his word. After such a magical season, Buie has nothing but appreciation for Northwestern.
“It’s every kid’s dream, growing up in athletics, to play in front of a big crowd and in a fun environment,” Buie says. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”