Remember how much fun it was to watch Juan’ya Green master point guard for the Flying Dutchmen? Or how enjoyable it was to see Ameen Tanksley play the Robin to Green’s Batman? Or that crazy finish against Monmouth on Dec. 6, 2017, when the Dutchmen trailed by two points, Justin Wright-Foreman intentionally missed a free throw and Stafford Trueheart tapped out the rebound to Jalen Ray, who sank the game-winning 3-pointer?
Desure Buie certainly does.
“Juan’ya Green, of course, the phenomenal player he was — Ameen Tanksley, Brian Bernardi, all those dudes, Denton Koon, they were all veterans,” Buie said of four-fifths of the startling lineup from his freshman year, when the Dutchmen fell to UNC Wilmington in the CAA championship game. “Some games, you get thrown in the fire. Some games, you’ve just got to sit and watch and see how things play out.
“I’ve been a part of a game, sitting on the bench, and I was like ‘Yo, this is the best game I’ve ever watched, truth be told.’ You always want to be in the game but that was so exciting, I was so excited to be part of that, it didn’t matter.”
Now, Buie is rounding out a remarkable career in which he’s become the guy everyone else watches. Entering Senior Day today, the fifth-year senior has played in a school-record 137 games — shattering the previous record of 128, shared by Charles Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester — and ranks third in the nation in minutes played with 1,111, just 108 fewer minutes than he played in 72 games over his first three seasons.
Buie needs one point this afternoon to move into sole possession of 20th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. His 548 points this season are 144 fewer than he had in his first four seasons.
With three more steals, he’ll become just the third player in Hofstra history — after Frank Walker and a guy named Speedy Claxton — to record 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals. He is likely to lead the Dutchmen in scoring, assists and steals this season, joining program icons Green, Claxton, Jenkins and Loren Stokes as the only players to achieve the feat in the last 25 years.
“He kept getting better and better,” Joe Mihalich said.
And with a Dutchman win or William & Mary loss today, Buie will become the first Hofstra player at the Division I level to be a part of three regular season conference champions. All this from a player who came off the bench in his first 42 games through Nov. 29, 2017, when he suffered a torn ACL that sidelined him for the rest of the season and yielded a redshirt.
In other words: All that watching — behind Green as a freshman, behind senior transfer Deron Powers in the eight games before Buie got hurt as a sophomore and for half a season behind another transfer, Kenny Wormley, in 2017-18 — paid off handsomely.
“It didn’t matter that I wasn’t on the court,” Buie said. “You just learn from it. Like Juan’ya — I took so much from him, watching him never coming out of the game, how he paced himself through the game, those types of thing. Deron Powers was relentless. He was fast, he knew how to get through creases and cracks. It was great watching him. And Kenny, he was just a good player. Kenny had a great IQ. He had good size. He knew how to play the game. You can take things from anybody.”
Buie began applying those lessons last season, when he emerged as an old-school point guard and led the CAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8) and steals (2.3 per game) while directing an offense led by Wright-Foreman, who finished second in the nation in scoring at 27.1 points per game, and Eli Pemberton. He also won league defensive player of the year honors.
Even with Wright-Foreman graduating, there was no indication Buie was going to emerge into a superstar, a la Green or Wright-Foreman. But he has scored in doubles figures 27 times, once fewer than he did in his first four seasons, and exceeded 20 points 10 times this season after doing so just three times previously. He keyed the upset of UCLA by scoring a then-career high 29 points in the 88-78 win on Nov. 21. In the first week of CAA play, Buie had 35- and 44-point games against Towson and Elon.
Overall, Buie is averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 assists and 2/1 steals over 37 minutes per game.As a senior in 2015-16, Green averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 assists and 1.6 steals over 37.7 minutes per game.
“It’s not like I came into the season saying ‘I’m going to be the leading scorer,’” Buie said. “I came into this season (thinking) this is my last year, I’m going to work my butt off all summer. Whatever happens, happens, but I’m going to be sure I’m going to make it my business to be doing everything I can to win games. And it just so happened that it came out this way.”
Buie has done all this while continuing to provide leadership on and off the court as well as juggling fatherhood (he has a three-year-old daughter) and his pursuit of a master’s degree in higher education leadership. It is one of the most remarkable careers in memory, one in which Buie has transitioned from the one witnessing history to the one producing it.
“Man, if you would have told me my freshman year this would be my life when I’m a senior, I never would have imagined it,” Buie said. “But I do this for the people that are behind me, that look up to me — my nephew, my daughter or my community, because where I’m from, people don’t make it out. So I just wanted to do that, to be an example. I just wanted to prove if I can do this, you know what I mean? It’s not magic. You can do it. It’s hard work. You can succeed in life. Just work at something.”