NCAA denies Rakeem Buckles' appeal to play for Minnesota

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

The situations surrounding Malik Smith and Rakeem Buckles don't seem all that different. Both players left Florida International after the school was ruled ineligible for the 2014 postseason due to APR violations.

Smith followed FIU head coach Richard Pitino to Minnesota after Pitino got the Golden Gophers' head job in April. Buckles had similar plans, hoping to play his final season for Pitino.

But here's where they differ:

Smith was granted a waiver to play immediately by the NCAA, while Buckles had his waiver claim denied. Minnesota appealed on behalf of Buckles, but that too was denied, the school announced.

As a result, Buckles likely has to play his final season at Florida International, a program that can't play in a postseason tournament.

Buckles, a 6-foot-7 forward, was constantly injured during his time at Louisville. He had a solid freshman campaign, but tore his right ACL during the latter part of his sophomore season. The knee injury came after a concussion and broken finger forced him to miss games. Eleven months later, Buckles tore the ACL in his left knee – forcing him to miss the final two months of his junior season.

When Pitino left his assistant coaching spot at Louisville to become the head coach at FIU, Buckles followed him. During his mandatory transfer redshirt season, Buckles also rehabbed from the second ACL tear. He would have been ready to play this fall.

Because Smith transferred and received a waiver, the chances of Buckles playing immediately at Minnesota initially seemed pretty good. He was admitted to Minnesota but had not yet enrolled.

And now, it looks like his hopes of playing his final season at Minnesota are done.

Rick Pitino, Buckles' former head coach, said this to ESPN.com last week when Buckles' waiver was initially denied:

“I'm just blown away by it. 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,” Pitino said. “He 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.”

Buckles had career averages of 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds at Louisville.

 
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