There are times when Donnie Boyce believes he didn’t get the credit deserving of a player who left his school as the basketball program’s all-time leading scorer.
Yet to be clear, whatever regret Boyce still harbors from his time at the University of Colorado certainly has never stemmed from some personal ego trip. Boyce always has understood that when it comes to recognition, winning is the thing. And the Buffaloes simply didn’t do enough of it while Boyce was routinely filling up box scores in the early 1990s.
That’s what made the call Boyce received in May from Rick George all the more special, as CU’s athletic director informed a remarkable player who had been somewhat estranged from his alma mater until late in 2019 that he will be part of the Buffs’ 2021 athletics Hall of Fame class.
“It definitely was validating for myself,” Boyce said of his Hall call. “I never really felt like I got the credit I deserved for the career that I had personally. I’m always a team guy, and because we didn’t win, I maybe didn’t achieve some things personally that I should have attained.
“Any high school kid’s dream is to play in the NCAA Tournament. And then coming from the high school program I came from, I lost more my freshman year than I did all four years of high school. That was tough to swallow. I always felt like because we didn’t win, I probably didn’t get as much recognition.”
Boyce arrived at CU as a hotshot recruit out of Proviso East High School just west of the Chicago city limits. It is a school still vaunted for its incredible athletic history, with a list of alums who reached the NBA that includes Boyce, Jim Brewer, Doc Rivers, Michael Finley, Shannon Brown, Sherell Ford, and Steven Hunter, who briefly was a backup for the Nuggets during the 2007-08 season. Proviso East also produced NFL standouts Ray Nitschke, Ed O’Bradovich, and Ray Buchanan.
Boyce spurned a comfortable local fit at DePaul in order to play for the Buffs. Yet after two seasons in Boulder, Boyce nearly transferred to Michigan. At the coaxing of former CU head coach Joe Harrington, Boyce opted to remain with the Buffs.
“I ended up telling (Harrington) that I was thinking about transferring, and some of the things he mentioned to me in that conversation was seeing things through despite adversity,” Boyce said. “A lot of times, like in life, things don’t always go how you hoped or planned. I thought it was important to finish something that I started.”
Boyce enjoyed just one winning season in Boulder as a senior, but even that moment proved to be another chapter in how things don’t always go as planned. After surpassing Cliff Meely as the program’s all-time leading scorer, Boyce led the Buffs to four consecutive wins to close a 15-11 regular season. CU still had work to do to secure an NCAA tourney bid, but with momentum and Boyce on the Buffs’ side, the opportunity was very real.
Fate, however, had other plans. Boyce famously suffered a gruesome broken leg against Oklahoma in the first round of the Big Eight tournament. CU lost, and the Boyce-less Buffs fell to New Mexico in the first round of the NIT.
Still, the winning season ultimately became a turning point for the CU program. As a senior, Boyce hosted a local recruit named Chauncey Billups during his campus visit, and Boyce still believes the upswing the Buffs enjoyed when he was a senior helped sway Billups to Boulder the following year.
As for Boyce’s Hall of Fame credentials, he remains CU’s third all-time scorer (1,995 points), and until the recently-graduated McKinley Wright IV came along, Boyce was the only Buffs player to compile at least 1,000 points, 400 assists, and 400 rebounds in his career. Boyce’s scoring average of 22.4 in 1993-94 still is the third-best single-season scoring average in team history, and his career scoring average of 18.6 ranks fourth. Boyce also ranks third in career made free throws (480), first in free throws attempted (721), and is tied for seventh in assists (405).
Perhaps fittingly, Boyce and Wright are tied for 20th in career rebounds (644).
Boyce had not been in touch with his former program until late 2019, when the Buffs squared off against Dayton in the annual Chicago Legends doubleheader in the Windy City. Boyce, now the head coach at his alma mater at Proviso East, plans to be at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in November. It will be his first visit to Boulder in more than 20 years, and he still regrets having to leave that CU-Dayton showdown on Dec. 21, 2019 at halftime due to a commitment with his high school team. CU knocked off the 13th-ranked Flyers on a memorable 3-pointer by D’Shawn Schwartz at the overtime buzzer.
“I love the game,” Boyce said. “I really love mentoring kids from my neighborhood. I still feel blessed and grateful for the opportunity.”