Louisville, KY, United States (4E Sports) – Louisville coach Rick Pitino has questioned the NCAA’s decision to deny former Cardinals forward Rakeem Buckles’ transfer to Minnesota and play this season for the Gophers.
“I’m just blown away by it. It makes no sense. It’s amazing the NCAA can do this,” Pitino told ESPN.com. “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.”
Pitino made the statement after the NCAA denied Buckles’ waiver to transfer from Florida International to Minnesota.
Buckles sat out last season at FIU and was set to follow head coach Richard Pitino, who left FIU for Minnesota this past offseason.
Unknown to Buckles, FIU was hit with a postseason ban by the NCAA months ago from academic deficiencies dating to the Isiah Thomas regime.
“Buckles had no idea that the program wouldn’t be able to play in the NCAA tournament when he transferred to FIU,” Rick Pitino said. “This is a good kid who has dealt with plenty of adversity over his career. It’s completely unfair.”
Buckles could have been the third player with one year of eligibility remaining to receive a waiver from the NCAA to transfer and be able to play immediately because of a postseason ban.
Alex Oriakhi first did it when left UConn and played last season at Missouri, and Malik Smith was cleared by the NCAA after coming from Minnesota to FIU.
The 6-7 Buckles had become a key piece for the Cardinals prior to his first ACL injury in February 2011.
He tore the ACL in his other knee less than a year later and was never the same, but he figured to be a rotation player at Minnesota for the younger Pitino.
Buckles will appeal the decision yet may have no option but to return to FIU but it’s still unclear whether new coach Anthony Evans will have a scholarship available for Buckles if he chooses to return to the school.