Rakeem Buckles


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

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

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.

Report: Rakeem Buckles denied waiver at Minnesota; will appeal

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Rakeem Buckles may not be able to play for Richard Pitino at Minnesota after all.

On Wednesday, the NCAA denied Buckles a waiver to be eligible to play for the Gophers immediately. Buckles played for Louisville for three seasons, suffering through a myriad of injuries — two major knee surgeries, a broken finger, a concussion — before transferring to Florida International. He sat out the 2012-2013 season, and he has one year of eligibility left. He transferred to Minnesota to follow Pitino, his head coach at FIU.

The news was first reported by Amelia Rayno of the Star-Tribune.

The complicating factor here is that Buckles’ five-year window to use his four seasons of eligibility will come to an end in 2013-2014, meaning that he can’t sit out the year as a redshirt because he’s ineligible to play in 2014-2015.

FIU faces a postseason ban this season due to APR issues from the Isiah Thomas era. The NCAA allows athletes to apply for a waiver for immediate eligibility if the rest of their career at an institution will be played under a postseason ban; that’s how Alex Oriakhi gained immediate eligibility at Missouri after transferring out of UConn. Buckles’ teammate at FIU, Malik Smith, has already been given a waiver by the NCAA to be eligible immediately at Minnesota.

Minnesota will appeal the decision. If that appeal is denied, Buckles may be forced to walk-on back at FIU as new head coach Anthony Evans has already filled his scholarship.

Buckles averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 boards in 18 minutes as a sophomore at Louisville before tearing his right ACL in February of 2011. He tore the ACL in his left knee in January of 2012.

Rakeem Buckles will transfer from Louisville, join Richard Pitino at FIU

Rakeem Buckles

A trend is developing at Louisville, and it’s not one with which Rick Pitino may want his name associated.

Rakeem Buckles, a 6-7, 215-pound forward who will miss the 2012-13 season with a torn ACL, is transferring from the Cardinal program and will join head coach Richard Pitino, a former Louisville assistant, at Florida International.

The injury he suffered in January was the latest in a series of setbacks for Buckles, which included a concussion, a broken index finger, and another major knee injury.

“Rakeem is one of my favorites during my tenure at Louisville,” said Pitino in a Louisville press release. “He’s just a fantastic young man who we wish great success at FIU. We will miss his personality and work ethic, but he is in good hands with Richard.”

But the developing trend is this: Buckles is the third injury-plagued player to transfer from Louisville this season, following Stephan Van Treese and Jared Swopshire out the door.

Van Treese had trouble with a knee injury, and his convenient transfer opened up a scholarship for top-level 2012 recruit Montrezl Harrell, who decommitted from Virginia Tech and joined the Cardinals this spring. Swopshire worked back from a few different injuries, and is now headed to Northwestern.

The silver lining of Buckles’ transfer is that he will be able to head back home to the Miami area, where he was the Class 4A State Player of the Year as a senior at Monsignor Pace (Fla.).

This past season with Louisville, he averaged 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 11 games.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_