COLUMN: Boo Buie is the best Northwestern basketball player of all-time - and it'll stay that way forever

Northwestern guard Boo Buie isn't exactly sure of how many loved ones he'll have at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday night when Northwestern plays Michigan.

He just knows it'll be around 10 as he aims to surpass the NU all-time scoring record. 

He just needs five points to eclipse John Shurna.

"It'll be a fun moment," Buie said.

That fun moment will be when Buie's official coronation begins as the best player in NU men's basketball history.

But, he's already reached that peak. Buie will pass that scoring record, even if something goes awry Thursday. He'll have a few more games to pass that record.

Given the circumstances, how Buie has affected the Wildcats program and for the amount of time he's done so, means he's the greatest Wildcat of all-time.

The "greatest of all-time" debates are a continuous part of sports, nowadays.

Find them superfluous or whatever, but they'll remain as long as anyone with an opinion has access to social media and a statsheet.

However, the college sports debates are different.

PISCATAWAY, NJ - MARCH 05: Head coach Chris Collins of the Northwestern Wildcats high fives Boo Buie #0 during a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jersey Mike's Arena on March 5, 2023 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Northwestern defeated Rutgers

There is no debate for Buie. He will be the best player in Northwestern history once he scores his five points against Michigan on Thursday to be the all-time leading scorer in Wildcats history.

Collins is already the best coach in program history. He took NU to two NCAA Tournaments with a third on the way this March, and has won two tournament games.

That's why it carries weight when Collins called Buie, the best player on those Northwestern tournament teams, the best player in program history.

"Thanks to coach for that," Buie said Wednesday.

But, making it on the "Mount Rushmore" of a college program is a difficult endeavor.

Not only does a player have to claim one of the all-time records, they have to have the results to show for it. That's difficult considering longevity of college sports.

"It's really difficult, especially when you have, what, a 100-year history of this program," Collins said. "Not only the scoring records and the things like that."

Statistics are important in this regard, and being the all-time leading scorer in the history of a Big 10 team is notable.

Sure, the COVID-19 rules gave him five seasons to surpass that record. It just means Buie's record will most likely be untouchable.

Collins measured Buie's effect beyond just the statistics. Given the five years he's had to leave his mark on the NU program, it's hard to foresee another player making as much of an impact as Buie has.

Soon, players won't get COVID-19 exemptions. 

"His legacy of winning when you look at the history of this program, the winning that he's been able to do and also what I talked about, his ability to kind of rally a fan base and excite a student body," Collins said. "He had a huge hand in that. And that can really help a program for a long time."


How Boo Buie has Northwestern basketball on the cusp of March Madness after a win over Nebraska

Right now, there isn't a team in America that wouldn't want Buie playing for them. All the senior is doing is leading Northwestern to the cusp of history.

Buie said the scoring record is a special opportunity.

He credited his program for the opportunity. Again, that's a testament to him in this current era of college athletics where the transfer portal offers the idea of greener pastures and bigger games elsewhere.

"It's just a huge testament to all the work and all the belief and faith that my teammates and coaches have had in me over the years," Buie said. "It's just a great opportunity and I'm honored to be able to do it here."

The challenge when Buie departs goes beyond filling his shoes on the court.

Opposing coaches certainly won't miss him  - "I'm sure as hell not going to miss him," Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg said on Feb. 7 - but there hasn't been a player that's stoked excitement in a program that hasn't seen it before like Buie has for Northwestern.

Collins knows this, leading NU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2017. Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, Dererk Pardon, Chase Audige and others have brought NU to the forefront.

Buie delivered on a different level.

"Obviously, he's not going to be with us after this last little stretch, but he's created an excitement here for Northwestern basketball that I don't think has ever been here before," Collins said. "And that's a great testament to him and how much I think people see how much he's loved this place too.

Northwestern can't just replace its greatest player of all-time. But, that's a discussion for later. Collins noted he still has six games, the Big 10 Tournament and a postseason tournament to coach Buie before sending him off.

Whenever that finale comes for Buie, he'll leave as the program's undisputed greatest.

"You can tell he's loved being here," Collins said. "He's loved wearing that 'N' on his chest and he's really proud to be a Northwestern guy."


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