Northwestern’s brightest offensive star is back in Evanston, and his coach has signed an extension through the 2027-2028 season. Those two, Boo Buie and Chris Collins, held court in Welsh-Ryan Arena for a media availability session on Tuesday morning, the day after Buie announced his decision to withdraw from the 2023 NBA Draft and return to Northwestern. From the team’s three transfer adds to the growing effect of NIL, the two chatted with media members about nearly every aspect impacting Northwestern’s offseason:
Reacting to Buie’s decision: “Certainly when you get an All-Big Ten-caliber player who’s a point guard going into his fifth year to come back and lead your team, it’s great news. But the thing I’m most proud about for him is, he’s coming back the right way. He wants to get better, he wants to win. He wants to continue to add to his legacy here at Northwestern, which is pretty awesome.”
On his role while Buie and Chase Audige mulled their options after entering the NBA Draft: “The main thing I try to tell them is, I try to look after them as if they were my own son. You have to take away your selfishness. Again, I’d love for both of those guys to come back and play, but how would I help you in this process if it was my own son? So, to make sure they’re in the right position to get the feedback that they need to make the best decision for their careers.
“I told them both going into this process, either way it’s a great thing. It’s a win-win. If you have a chance to potentially be drafted, then go for it. If not, you have a really good thing here. So I think both guys have gone about it the right way.”
On how NIL’s growing influence on draft process decisions: “It adds an element now where it used to be going to college could bring advantages, but now the ability to make a bit of money off your NIL is a big thing. Especially these guys that are a little bit older, 22, 23 years old. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about for them now. They work hard to put themselves in a position to make money playing basketball. I definitely think you’re seeing that across the country. Guys that maybe in the past, no question they either tried to go to the NBA or play in some of the minor leagues overseas, now there’s value in coming back to college and playing at this level. With the exposure to the leagues, but also the ability to make a lot more.”
On Northwestern’s transfer portal recruiting: “It’s ongoing. It’s another element of recruiting that’s big. I saw maybe this morning there was over 1,600 names that got into the portal out of [around] 360 Division I schools. You’re talking about maybe 25% of Division I players that are in the portal. You have to do your due diligence. Like I’ve said, we’re never gonna be a program that’s going to completely build a roster off transfers — that’s not how we’re going to do it.
“But that being said, we knew we were going to lose Tydus [Verhoeven] for sure, so we needed more depth on the front line. We felt like last year, from an offensive scoring punch, we just needed more firepower to what we already had. So those were things we really tried to attack. But we also wanted guys that were going to be about our culture. Guys that were going to be about winning, that were high-character guys, that were maybe a little under the radar and undervalued that we felt could really fit into the culture we’re trying to build here.”
On his three-year extension and new expectations: “It’s great to know for the next five years our staff’s going to be intact. We’re going to continue to build what we set out to do. Pressure is nothing new to me. My whole life growing up, being my dad’s shadow. When you’re at a place like Duke for 20 years there’s a bit of a pressure-cooker there. So I’ve never really looked at that as a big thing. That’s what it is here, when you’re at the Big Ten level. We went through a process through this group [before 2022-23]. I felt like we were getting better, but we weren’t able to get over the hump. Getting over the hump last year, and seeing what it was like to start winning close games, taste the postseason, win a game, hopefully we continue to build on that.
“I’ve always said, I just want to make sure I’m still excited, that I’m still loving what I’m doing and I still feel I can be good at it. When none of those things are a checkmark, you’ve got to start evaluating what you’re doing, because that’s what these guys deserve. So I’m excited to be sticking around for a few more years.”
On how NCAA Tournament experience helps the 2023-24 team: “None of these guys had tasted what it was like to be in a tournament. It’s a different feel when you get there and you get a chance to play in the second round. The main thing that we talked about was, let’s take that experience and build off it, but let’s understand we’ve got to start over with the reset of building our team.
“That was probably the biggest thing I took away from going through it before. You take for granted, because you have a core group of guys back, that all those things are in place. You realize, with every year, every team is different. I’m excited we have a big core back of our key guys, but we are gonna have probably six new faces. That new energy, those new personalities, I think that will really help us as we continue to move forward. But there’s no question that there’s a confidence that comes. You can talk about winning, but when you go out there and you win — six Big Ten road wins last year — it’s huge. To be able to do that in really tough environments against great teams, to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, those are things I want our guys to be confident about as we head into next year.”
On learning about how to maintain success from 2017 experience: “When I went through that, it was my first time too. I was a young coach going through that process — everyone talked about getting into that first tournament, and it was almost like that was our national championship. We lost a little bit of the qualities that made us good, we didn’t have any home games. It was the perfect storm of a lot of things that made us take a step back. But I definitely learned, I think we’ve learned going through that.
“You can’t take for granted just because you have key guys back, that it’s just gonna be the same. We have to go back to the basics, we have to start when we get our team here together this summer, to get going with our new faces. But I said it before, I think having a new group of faces is going to help. With the 2017-18 team, we only had one new guy. That team had played together for about three years, and there wasn’t any newness, or a freshness. Adding some new players and new personalities to our core is going to be really important because it’s going to bring some new energy and hopefully make us better. That’s the goal, we want to be better. You don’t want to rest on what you did last year — that’s over. We’ve got to go pursue something new, and that’ll start in June when we get together.”
On dealing with higher expectations: “Sure they’ll be more expectation. I’m not sure we’ll be picked last again, which is fine. Low expectations, high expectations, I always tell our guys that we have to keep an even keel. I tell them all the time, even after big wins, ‘Don’t be so happy and joyful about good things that are said about you, and when you’re not doing well, the same people are gonna report how you’re struggling.’ That’s the nature of how this is, especially with social media and the attention on these guys. Especially with Boo coming back, we’ll return a great core with some of the additions that I think will really help us. There will be expectations we maybe haven’t had in the past couple of years, and that will be different for our guys.
“But I think we went through that a little bit this year, as we started getting better and people started talking good about our guys, we tried to attack that head-on and said, ‘Hey, we’re the same group that everyone didn’t think was good enough.’ So we have to kind of keep that chip on our shoulder mentality, there’s no question. I’m confident, that’s the makeup. You look at some of these guys, they weren’t the guys that were pampered out of high school. We just talked about Boo’s story, a guy like Brooks Barnhizer, Nick Martinelli. They were guys that have had to work and and have been undervalued, that we see something in, and we’ve got to lean on that attitude as we continue to try to build.”
On maintaining his staff: “Continuity is huge. I want all my guys to strive to be head coaches, I tell them that from the start. But we have a really good chemistry right now on the staff. With Coach Lowery and Coach James as older guys who have been head coaches and different experiences, and two up-and-coming coaches in Bryant [McIntosh] and Talor [Battle]. I’ve always tried to surround myself with coaches that can help complement what I think I’m good at and weaknesses that I might have. I’ve never been one of those guys to micromanage, because that’s how I was brought up as a coach. I know these guys feel like they have a great voice in our program, that they have ownership of what we’re doing. When you’re locked in-step with your staff, the players feel that and it sets a culture of connectedness that’s really important at this level.”
On what convinced him to stay at Northwestern: “Last season, and four years here, the community and the coaches, and everyone just believing in me. I had an interview with Beyond the Big 10, and I was telling them, the people here and going through four years and what they did for me. Playing here has been awesome, and having one more year before I start my pro career is just a blessing, and I just wanted to take the most advantage of it and make the biggest opportunity.”
On dealing with the draft process: “It was super tough because as a kid, I grew up dreaming of playing in the NBA. So my whole goal when I first declared and said I was going to keep my eligibility was to go, and stay in the draft. But after talking to my family and my coaches, and having another opportunity to increase that chance of reaching my goals by coming back and just having another good season — and leading the team to another successful year... knowing the benefits of coming back, I decided to weigh my pros and cons. I felt for me and my family at the time, it was the best decision for me to come back to school.”
On feedback he received in the draft process: “A lot was on my three-point field goal percentage [31.8% in 2022-23] and just picking that number up. The scouts have seen me play a bunch of times. They know I can play, they just want to see more consistency in the three-ball, as well as I. I don’t doubt myself with that at all. Last year, I didn’t really show what type of shooter I really am, so this offseason I’ve been working on it a bunch and continuing to develop my game. Just leading my teammates, and making sure they’re working on their games so next year we come back even stronger.”
On NIL’s effect: “That’s another side of things. For me, it’s new. Last year was the first year, and it was new, so opportunities weren’t huge. I’m sure opportunities are going to be a lot better this year. But the younger guys who are freshmen, they have a real chance to make a lot of money and have a comfortable savings before they get out into the real world. But unfortunately I only have one year, so this is the main year for me to capitalize on that. But I’m here for basketball. I was here before NIL, and I’m here for the same reasons I came.”
On Audige’s draft process: “Chase is in the same position as me. I can’t really speak on anyone else, but we went through the same process and I know at the beginning, we were both saying we were gonna give it our all. I was ready to know what was next for me, I was getting antsy with not knowing. He’s still going through the process though, so I wish him the best. Hopefully he does well and makes it to the next level, and if not, I hope he comes back. But I just let him have his space with that. I tried to just give him what he needs and just stay in touch, but not overcrowd his space.”
On the three transfer additions: “I’m not sure how much I can say on those guys, but I’m really confident in their abilities and just coming in. They’re coming from winning programs and great coaches, and they’re all older guys and have been through college basketball games. The more guys you have that know what it takes to win at this level, the better chance you have of being a good team.”
On potentially playing overseas: “I didn’t really explore that route, just with the new NIL and having another year of eligibility. I felt it would be better for me to explore a fifth year and have a chance to get another degree from Northwestern. Europe is always going to be an option, so I could do the same thing after this fifth year.”
Whether the team has higher expectations: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure what people are expecting of us. We’ve never been in that position, but we do know how to tune people out. We do know how to tune the outside media out, and people who doubt us. If they’re putting pressure on us to be something, we’re having the same mindset as if they’re expecting us not to be anything. We’re just going to continue to do what we do, block out the outside noise and focus on getting better every day.”