Cards on top of four-star Buckles' list?

Four-star forward Rakeem Buckles is a top priority for Rick Pitino in the Class of 2009. The 6'8, 200-pound Miami, Florida native picked up an offer from the Cardinals earlier this fall. Now, the multi-dimensional Buckles is looking to set up a visit with Louisville. Have the Cardinals emerged as the early favorite for Rakeem Buckles?

Four-star forward Rakeem Buckles is a top priority for Rick Pitino in the Class of 2009. The 6'8, 200-pound Miami, Florida native picked up an offer from the Cardinals earlier this fall. Now, the multi-dimensional Buckles is looking to set up a visit with Louisville.

Buckles, an explosive athlete, has emerged as one of the top prospects nationally in the Class of 2009. In the past year, Buckles has expanded his game to the perimeter and improved his ball handling and shooting skills. That improvement, combined with his strengths around the basket, have big-time coaches like Pitino in hot pursuit.

"He was pretty much under the radar for the last year or so just because we've got Ray Shipman and Terrence Santiel and graduated some seniors last year that got a lot of attention," said Buckles' high school coach Mark Lieberman. "He came in as a post-player and he's just rapidly improved his perimeter skills.


Rakeem Buckles is looking to visit
Louisville in the near future.
"He's come to the point now where he's able to handle the basketball, make plays and knock down shots. He's just improving everyday from a perimeter standpoint and he still brings that toughness and rebounding that he had as a freshman and sophomore. He's obsessed with rebounding, which is one of his best traits and he's obviously become a perimeter threat now. It's made him a multi-dimensional player."

Louisville has made a strong effort recently to recruit the Sunshine State. This month, the Cardinals are expected to sign 6'7 forward Jared Swopshire from Bradenton. The Cardinals also pursued 6'10 Florida standout Eloy Vargas before he chose the Gators and are actively recruiting Vargas' teammate, 2009 guard Kenny Boynton.

"As far as a player - and I've seen the best of the 2009 class - I can't imagine a player who might be better in Florida," Lieberman said. "I'm sure there are some guys that might be as good but I can't imagine there's a kid that has as much upside.

"He's a great kid, he works hard, he plays hard and the sky is the limit for him because of the skills he brings. He's 6'8 now and he has enough skills to play the three at the next level even if he doesn't grow more."

On the recruiting front, Louisville has been Buckles most ardent pursuer, according to Lieberman. Rick Pitino travelled to the South Florida-area to see Buckles in action in late September and the Cardinals have already offered the four-star prospect a scholarship. Which other school have been showing Buckles strong interest?

"Louisville would probably be at the top of the list – they're real excited about him," Lieberman said. "They saw him play this summer for the Florida Rams team and they really liked what they saw. Since then they've shown the most interest."

"Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Kansas and Connecticut are also showing (interest) right now. Miami has offered, Louisville has offered and Florida State has offered."

While it's still early in the recruiting process for Buckles, Louisville appears to have emerged as the early favorite to land the 6'8, 200-pound combo forward.

"Right now it's pretty early for him to say there's a stone-cold favorite – he's just going through the process," Lieberman said. "But I'd say the top school on his list is maybe Louisville just because of the interest they've shown from day one and he's familiar with the style of play Coach Pitino has. It's very similar to what we do. In fact, defensively we do the same stuff and get out and run offensively. And obviously Coach Pitino has had success with players at his position. I know he likes them."

Lieberman said Buckles is also looking to set up an unofficial visit to Louisville in the near future.

"Right now we're sitting down to discuss that," Lieberman said. "He hasn't finalized anything yet. He's been to a couple of schools in-state but we're trying to look at maybe something with Louisville. That's something that we're going to look at in the next few days."


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