In the past few months alone, three injury-plagued Louisville reserves have transferred, raising suspicions that Pitino is essentially jettisoning players who are no longer essential to the team to make room for more talented new additions.
First, Rick Pitino encouraged senior forward Jared Swopshire to take advantage of a rule enabling him to play right away if he transferred for his final collegiate season. Next, reserve big man Stephan Van Treese alleviated Louisville's scholarship crunch earlier this month when he left two days after promising late signee Montrezl Harrell came aboard. And finally on Thursday, Louisville announced that reserve forward Rakeem Buckles will join former Louisville assistant Richard Pitino at Florida International.
Buckles, a 6-foot-7 former top 50 recruit, was expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season while recovering from the second torn ACL of his career suffered in a Jan. 16 game against Marquette.
"Rakeem is one of my favorites during my tenure at Louisville," Rick Pitino said in a statement released by the school. "He's just a fantastic young man who we wish great success at FIU. We will miss his personality and work ethic, but he is in good hands with Richard."
It's understandable the departures of Swopshire and Van Treese would raise suspicion, but the case of Buckles appears more murky. Would Buckles really transfer to play for Richard Pitino at FIU if he was angry about how Rick Pitino treated him?
Regardless, the reputation the elder Pitino is earning for over-recruiting is well-deserved.
Last year, Pitino accepted offers from Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric and Elisha Justice to free up scholarships by paying their own way for school. This year, three players have transferred to get the Cardinals under the 13-scholarship limit.
Louisville will be a stronger, deeper team because of it but the Cardinals will have to live with some questions about their ethics along the way.
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