Rakeem Buckles returning to FIU with a scholarship

Andy Lyons

The former Louisville forward returns to the Golden Panthers after his request to play immediately at Minnesota was denied.

Rakeem Buckles will return to Florida International with a scholarship this year, Golden Panthers head coach Anthony Evans told ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

The NCAA denied the injury-plagued Buckles' appeal to play immediately at Minnesota, where his former head coach, Richard Pitino, recently took the head coaching job.

Buckles started his collegiate career with Louisville under Rick Pitino, Richard's father, but two torn ACLs cut his time short with the Cardinals. He has not played a college game since Jan. 16, 2012, when he suffered the second ACL tear after just one minute of action. Buckles then transferred to Florida International, where he sat out his mandatory year and continued his recovery.

After his coach took the Minnesota job, Buckles intended to follow him there, with FIU barred from postseason play in 2013-14. But the NCAA denied both his waiver to play immediately and the subsequent appeal. Buckles decided to return to FIU, where Evans had a scholarship waiting for him.

Rick Pitino voiced his displeasure with the NCAA's decision, telling ESPN:

"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.

"[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."

Malik Smith, who also looked to transfer from FIU to Minnesota, will be able to play immediately for the Golden Gophers. The NCAA granted his request.

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