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.