Buckles making progress

Louisville freshman forward Rakeem Buckles is making progress on the court early this season. The 6-foot-8 Buckles had a solid game against Appalachian State, then followed with a double-double at UNLV. Buckles spoke with InsideTheVille.com recently about his progress.

University of Louisville freshman forward Rakeem Buckles had the best game of his young career Monday night in the Cardinals' 80-53 win over Appalachian State.

Buckles scored six points, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and also dished out two assists in only 15 minutes of action against the Mountaineers. He followed that performance with a 10 point, 11 rebound outing against UNLV.

Afterward UofL coach Rick Pitino said that Buckles, who known as "Rock" throughout the team, was "the star," for the Cardinals. "I thought Rock was excellent. He was so active on the glass, active defensively, getting a lot of deflections," Pitino said.

Buckles hit 2 of 4 field goal tries - although his ill-advised three-pointer missed the rim - and made both of his free throw attempts. Of his 10 boards, three were offensive and seven were defensive.

ITV caught up with Rock in the locker room after the game.

Rakeem Buckles is making progress early in the season.
What was the difference for you tonight?

RB: "Just coming off the bench and playing hard. That was my main key before the game. I had a little talk with myself, saying I'm just going to go out and play hard and not worry about making any mistakes."

Is that going to be your role this season, coming in and being a rebounder?

RB: "I see myself being energy off the bench and doing whatever I have to do to help the team."

What does it take to be a good rebounder?

RB: "Just crash the boards and don't get boxed out, and just go hard all the time."

Coach joked at media day that you need to gain some weight (the 6-foot-8 Buckles is listed at 215 pounds), are you physically ready for the Big East?

RB: "I'm just going to try and play hard as I can. I know I'm a little underweight, but hard work will pay off if you're out there playing hard."

It seemed like you were ready to play tonight coming off the bench, is that true?

RB: "I just think everybody's prepared on the bench. Everybody gets that chance to practice, so everybody wants to get that chance to go out there and play hard."

What did you get out of these three home games in three days?

RB: "We took every game seriously to get better , so as the season goes on as we play better teams like UNLV, and all the teams after that, it just made us focus on our scouting to get prepared for every game we play."

What's been your biggest improvement so far?

RB: "Being a smarter player. My basketball IQ has improve drastically since I've been here." What have been the biggest adjustments for you so far?

RB: "Just adjusting to Coach P's coaching style, wanting us to get up and down, always in the press, always running. In high school my team wasn't always pressing, we kind of laid back and let the other teams make the mistakes. We force the mistakes on this team."

Your role here is probably a lot different here, then it was in high school (he was the Class 4A Player of the Year at Monsignor Pace and averaged 22.8 points and 13.1 rebounds per game), can you talk about that?

RB: "It's a big change from high school. I'm used to scoring a lot in high school, but my role's changed I'm coming off the bench with energy, I'm trying to be an energy guy and rebound and hustle and dive on the floor for the ball, take chargers, whatever I have to do to win."

What about that three-pointer, which didn't touch the rim, you took?

RB: "Oh man," he said, laughing. "My wrist is messed up, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse, it was awful."

But, that's your range?

RB: "Yeah I usually do (make it), but that was completely off."

Did coach say anything to you about it?

RB: "Yeah, because last game I took a bad shot and I missed and he said, ‘Don't shoot any more threes,' and then (tonight) he said, ‘I scared you completely.'"

You're from Miami, how are you adjusting to the weather up here?

RB: "It's not that bad, yet but I know it's going to get worse. I'm kind of excited about the winter, though, because I've never seen snow. I've seen it on the floor, but I've never seen it come out of the sky so I'm kind of excited about that."

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