Buckles Picks Big East Program

Another junior is off the board. Rakeem Buckles made his decision and he plans to play his college basketball in the Big East.

The Louisville Cardinals always liked Rakeem Buckles. In fact, Rick Pitino liked him more than most and clearly saw the direction in which the young man was headed.

On Monday morning, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward committed to the Cardinals after considering a host of programs including Miami and West Virginia.

"There was a lot of factors for him," Pace coach Mark Lieberman said. "He's excited about the program and he's excited obviously about playing for Coach [Rick] Pitino. Those two are probably the most prevalent factors for him. Obviously it gives him a chance to play on a national schedule and to play for a great coach and develop as a player."

Undefined in terms of his collegiate position, Buckles, is a prospect. Explosive, wiry and a year away from playing a starring role at Monsignor Pace, Buckles showed flashes.

He showed the DNA to one day be a small forward. His perimeter touch is inconsistent but the raw materials are there. He'll pursue caroms off the glass and will be a guy who faces up and poses a threat. He's got athletic markers most kids don't possess. What does that mean? As a prospect he scores extremely high marks and we're banking that in the next year he'll make advances with his game and make good on his promise.

"He's continued to evolve as a player since he came to us as a freshman and even last year he was more of a post player," Lieberman said. "Now he's moved out and is a guy that can do a lot of different things and can knock down shots for us. He's 6-8 and can play with his back to the basket and can rebound."

Louisville's interest has been consistently hard from the beginning. Rick Pitino became enamored with his attitude and athletic ability last summer. Since that time, no one has pursued Buckles with the zest the Cardinals have. While others wondered if he would continue progressing, Louisville projected him to be a standout and treated his recruitment as such.

Monday's commitment gives the Cardinals an athletic combo forward with a big upside. The talented forward is Louisville's second commitment in the junior class. The Cards added Mike Marra, of Northfield Mount Hermon, last week.

Buckles, who isn't included in Scout.com's current Top 75, will be at the very least a Top 50 prospect when we release our new rankings in the spring. Buckles is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds a game for Pace.

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