Rakeem Buckles

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Report: Rakeem Buckles to be a scholarship player at FIU

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It may have taken four years to get here, but there is finally a bit of good news for Rakeem Buckles’ college basketball career.

His head coach at Florida International told Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com that the fifth-year senior will, in fact, be on scholarship heading into the 2013-2014 season.

When Buckles’ waiver for a transfer to Minnesota was denied by the NCAA last week, there was initially concern that a return to FIU would force him to play as a walk-on this season. Alas, Buckles will avoid have to take out student loans, which, for anyone currently paying them down, is a blessing.

It’s about time that Buckles got a bit of good news, however. The kid has been through enough. Not only did his waiver to transfer and play at Minnesota get denied (there’s a strong argument to say it was wrongfully denied), but Buckles will now be forced to play out his final season without the possibility of making the NCAA tournament. This comes after a career that saw his twice have a season ended by a torn ACL and once miss the beginning of the year with a spiral fracture in his finger.

Report: Rakeem Buckles’ appeal for a waiver at Minnesota denied

Rakeem Buckles
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Last week, Rakeem Buckles was denied a waiver by the NCAA that would have allowed the Florida International transfer to play immediately at Minnesota this season.

On Tuesday, Buckles’ appeal was also denied, meaning that the former Louisville forward will be forced to return to Florida International to use his final season of eligibility, which will give critics of the decision-makers at NCAA offices even more ammo in the seemingly-endless assault on the organization’s credibility recently.

Consistency and compassion are two things that the NCAA seems to completely lack.

Buckles has had been plagued by the bad luck of the injury bug throughout his career, as he dealt with a torn ACL in each knee, a concussion, and a spiral fracture of a finger during his three seasons with the Cardinals. He transferred to FIU after the 2011-2012 season, following Richard Pitino when he was named head coach, and sat out last year to rehab from his second torn ACL.

When Pitino was named head coach at Minnesota, Buckles made the decision to once again follow his coach, and given the circumstances, it seemed a formality that Buckles would get a waiver to play immediately.

FIU is banned from postseason play in 2013-2014 due to APR issues stemming back to the Isiah Thomas era. Another FIU player, JuCo transfer Malik Smith, was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately at Minnesota since he only had one year of eligibility remaining; the NCAA will generally grant a waiver is a player’s remaining eligibility would be played under a postseason ban at his current school.

But Buckles’ bad luck continued, as he will not be able to go to Minnesota and continue his basketball career. He had already signed a Big Ten tender and been admitted to Minnesota, but since Buckles five-year clock expires after the 2013-2014 season, sitting out a year would mean that he’s unable to use his fourth year of eligibility.

“I’m just blown away by it,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino told ESPN.com after Buckles’ waiver was denied. “It makes no sense. It’s amazing the NCAA can do this. He’s a model student-athlete who had a 3.2 GPA when he left Louisville. He just wants a chance to play in another NCAA tournament.

“[Buckles] had no idea that the program wouldn’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament when he transferred to FIU. This is a good kid who has dealt with plenty of adversity over his career. It’s completely unfair.”

Rick Pitino sounds off on NCAA denying Rakeem Buckles a waiver

Rakeem Buckles
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This summer has provided a number of interesting rules by the NCAA, and Louisville head coach voiced his opinion on Friday in the wake of one of the NCAA’s most recent head-scratching rulings.

Rakeem Buckles started his career at Louisville, but decided to follow Richard Pitino to the FIU, sat out the season, and then chose to go with Pitino to Minnesota. On Wednesday, Buckles, who has one year of eligibility remaining, had his waiver to play immediately was denied by the NCAA. This ruling is puzzling for two reasons: FIU is ineligible for postseason play due to APR issues from Isiah Thomas’ tenure as head coach. Also, this comes five weeks after FIU transfer Malik Smith was granted a waive to play right away at Minnesota.

When talking to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Rick Pitino expressed his disbelief in the NCAA’s decision.

“I’m just blown away by it,” Pitino told Goodman. “It makes no sense. It’s amazing the NCAA can do this. He’s a model student-athlete who had a 3.2 GPA when he left Louisville. He just wants a chance to play in another NCAA tournament.

“[Buckles] had no idea that the program wouldn’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament when he transferred to FIU. This is a good kid who has dealt with plenty of adversity over his career. It’s completely unfair.”

The 6-foot-7 Buckles has torn both his ACLs — right in February 2011, left in January 2012 — during his time in a Cardinal uniform. He would have seen considerable action on the Golden Gophers frontline.

The NCAA’s decision has since been appealed.