Will Pitino add power forward Buckles from FIU? Would NCAA let him?

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  • April 9, 2013 - 12:23 PM

New Gophers coach Richard Pitino shrugged off a question about whether he would bring in any new recruits for 2013-14 with three scholarships available.

“Only if they are the right fit,” he said several times at his Friday introductory news conference.

Assuming that Pitino believes he’s found that right fit in the past, he could be bringing some of his earlier searching to Minnesota.

Gopher Illustrated's Zach Johnson reported yesterday that Rakeem Buckles could be headed to the Gophers now that the coach who recruited him has moved on as well.

Buckles played three seasons for Louisville before transferring to Florida International after tearing his left ACL in January of 2012. Buckles had sustained an ACL tear in his right knee just a year earlier.

Despite the injury troubles, the power forward has shown sparks of potential. In his last full season in 2010-11, Buckles averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in 18.8 minutes a game at Louisville. The 6-7, 215-pound Buckles has been away from the game for a long time now, a la Mo Walker, but the 22-year-old could still have something left in the tank. If Buckles does in fact decide to come to Minnesota, the question will be when he will be allowed to play.

Buckles, who could graduate from FIU this spring, would be required to sit out a full season, unless Minnesota were to submit and be granted a waiver based on his unique situation.

To complicate things more, Buckles would have to submit a waiver just to play in 2014-15 because if the forward doesn’t play this season, his five-year clock would end, and he would need to be granted a sixth year by the NCAA.

It’s hard to predict what the NCAA will do, but in this environment – one the NCAA has created – in which coaches are allowed to jump around at will (see Steve Alford), but players remain tethered to rigid rules that interrupt their careers if they decide to go elsewhere, allowing Buckles to follow his coach would only seem fair.

If he was allowed to play right away at Minnesota, it could be the best of both worlds for the Gophers. They are thin in the frontcourt with Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe and Andre Ingram all departing, but at the same time Buckles would only be on scholarship for one season, leaving it open again for the loaded class of 2014 prep players.

  • FIU point guard Malik Smith has announced publicly that he wants to transfer. He hasn't made it clear where, yet, but on Wednesday night after Pitino was announced as the new head coach at Minnesota, Smith posted the following on Instagram: "Thanks to FIU for the opportunity to do something special and help turn a program around. With that being said, I’ll be asking for my release some time next week and taking my talents to a different university. Coach Pitino helped show me what hard work was and I’ll forever appreciate it. With him and the rest of my teammates the best in the future. Everything happens for a reason."

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