Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome Aboard, Rakeem Buckles!

 In a move that has been long confirmed without being confirmed due to some academic hurdles that needed to be taken care of, Rakeem Buckles has now officially joined your Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball squadron (according to, uh, someone), and is now awaiting clearance from the NCAA to be immediately eligible to begin play next season (which would be his one and only year of eligibility left which is good because of all those top prospects fighting to join the team in 2014).  Because this is clearly a case of a player wanting to play for a specific coach who keeps moving around (Buckles has followed Rich Pitino from Louisville to FIU and now to Minnesota) I'd say this is a slam dunk waiver case, but the NCAA is a bunch of misguided fascists who once banned the world's greatest receiver for an entire year because he had lunch with Deion Sanders, so who knows.  I'd still say he's likely to join the team, and that's good news because depth up front is the #1 issue for the team this season.

Buckles is a slightly undersized four at 6-7, 215 lbs. but can make up for that with elite athleticism if his knees will allow him to not be Maurice Creek.  He's dealt with two ACL tears so far in his short career, and the health of those knees should decide if he's a major contributor and key to the team, or merely a rotation player.  Either way, this is a big pick-up for the team because it gives them a fourth interior player, but hopefully he got the Kobe blood platelet thing and he's back to 100%, because he certainly flashed a lot of potential prior to the knee thing at Louisville.

Buckles joined Louisville his freshman season as the #78 recruit in the country and 26th best power forward according to ESPN.  He was described as an incredible athlete who was too quick for power forwards to handle and too strong for small forwards to deal with.  His biggest strength was his ability to combine that athletic ability with his great ball-handling skills for someone his size in order to get to the rim almost at will.  That season he played 11 minutes per game for Louisville, averaging 4 pts and 3 rebounds per game, finishing first on the team in offensive rebounding percentage and second in defensive.  He looked like he was starting to put it together in his sophomore year, averaging 7 pts and 6 rebounds in 19 minutes and adding an outside shot to his game (42% on 3s after attempting just six the prior year).  He was the top rebounder percentage-wise on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals, and his DR% was 2nd in the Big East and then bang crash oops knee = dead.  After coming back post-injury he played in limited minutes and limited games for Louisville before transferring to FIU at season's end where it happened again.

There are a million questions with what Buckles can do.  If he had never gotten injured and was just transferring here I'd be like omg, but he did get hurt not only once, but twice.  Maurice Creek basically lost all his athletic ability when that happened to him, but plenty of other players have been able to bounce back to be either the same or near it.  And if he did lose that elite athletic ability, what if he's a dead eye outside shooter now?  He clearly worked on it between his freshman and sophomore year, so who's to say that will all these missed games and a season on the bench he hasn't been doing nothing but shooting?  And what if he did add the jumper and managed to keep the athleticism?  What if he didn't improve his jumper and also can't jump?

Buckles could literally be anything from the fourth big man to a star and I wouldn't be surprised.  It mostly depends on the knees.  I couldn't even begin to guess, but a fourth option in the paint is a definite good thing.  Perhaps I should be more optimistic considering Buckles becomes the all-time leading college scorer among the four options (Buckles 273, Eliason 174, Walker 111, Buggs 0) but two knee surgeries in a little over two years scares the hell out of me.  I can't shake Maurice Creek.  I just can't.  I hope he's healthy, and I hope if he's not 100% he's reinvented himself as a shooter.  Either of those are good.  I'll just concentrate on those things.

1 comment:

WWWWWW said...

So yeah. About this......